High Plains responds to health scare

High Plains Community Schools was faced with a terrible dilemma Thursday when it was announced that sophomore Austin Fritz died from an apparent meningitis infection.
School officials posted an alert on the High Plains website late Friday afternoon explaining what they could of the situation and advising students and their families on what precautions they should take for themselves based on information released by the Central District Health Departmen. The CDHD  represents Hall, Hamilton and Merrick counties.
Teresa Anderson, CDHD health director and Vickie Duey, executive director of Four Corners Health Department, issued a public health release Monday afternoon.
“Last Friday the community lost a loved member,” the release stated. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends. There was concern that a serious type of illness (meningococcal meningitis) was present and could spread. Education and preventative medications were provided to be certain that if this illness was present it would be contained.
“Based on the latest laboratory tests taken from both of these children (Austin has a younger sibling, Mikey, living at home), we are advising that there is no need for further action,” the release stated. “In public health, our first concern is for the safety and health of those we serve. We believe the actions taken were appropriate.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to Litzenberg Hospital, the school administration, staff, students and parents for their outstanding cooperation.”
Meningitis is defined as an acute inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation may be caused by a variety of different infections with either viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms. The reason meningitis can be life threatening is because of its direct affliction to the brain and spinal cord.
“Our concerns are with Austin’s family, but our concern is with our staff, students’ and families’ safety also,” said Supt. Brian Tonniges. “The way it looks now we can put our total thoughts into Austin’s family.”
When a situation like the one High Plains had to handle last week occurs, the school administration does its best to work with local health departments like the CDHD to ensure that every precaution is met.
“It was important for us to be advised by the CDHD on the protocol that we needed to follow,” Tonniges reported. “We want to make sure people have the correct information, and we want to make sure people are assured of their safety. At this time we have been advised that everybody is safe.”

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