ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — An Eaglecrest High School teacher has died after it's believed she was infected by bacterial meningitis.
The teacher, identified by the Cherry Creek School District as 24-year-old Maddie Schmidt, died over the weekend after showing symptoms consistent with bacterial meningitis.
A district spokeswoman confirmed a second death to 9NEWS. Judith Geoffroy, 63, who is an special education para-educator, also died over the weekend. The spokeswoman had no additional details about Geoffroy's death or whether it was connected to Schmidt's death.
The Arapahoe County coroner's office said autopsies were performed on both women but their causes of death are pending additional test results.
Arapahoe County Public Health said they learned of one lab-confirmed case of meningitis on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday afternoon, that was the only case they were investigating.
"We're very concerned about this case," said Christopher Urbina, who is Arapahoe Public Health's chief medical officer. "It causes invasive disease very quickly."
Health leaders also said there is a relatively small window of time to identify close contacts and get them the antibiotics necessary to treat them.
Because the infection is contagious and may require hospitalization, the district chose to cancel athletics and activities on Tuesday evening and canceled school and activities on Wednesday, April 12. Normal operations will resume Thursday for school, athletics and activities, according to the district.
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes (meninges) that protect the spinal cord and brain. If infected, the membranes swell and press on the spinal cord or brain. This can cause life-threatening problems. Meningitis symptoms strike suddenly and worsen quickly.
Colorado typically sees about seven cases a year, according to Urbina.
So far this year, there have been six reported cases of meningococcal disease and one death among Colorado residents, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This includes the case at Eaglecrest. They said there is no known connection between any of those cases.
According to a district letter sent to the Eaglecrest community, the Arapahoe County Public Health Department will finish contact tracing and determine next steps on Wednesday.
"Right now, we have one confirmed case. We are doing tracking to see if anyone has symptoms from the exposure," said Anders Nelson with the Arapahoe County Health Department. "It takes 1-10 days to see symptoms, but typically they see symptoms within 3-4 days."
Nelson said the department is in the middle of identifying people who were exposed and coordinated with the district to notify students and staff.
People typically become infected if they've been in close contact with an infected person for an extended period of time, roughly eight hours, said Urbina. It can also be spread by sharing food, drinks, or utensils with an infected person.
Students at Eaglecrest were scheduled to take PSAT and SAT tests on Wednesday, but those tests will be rescheduled by the school.
In the letter, the district says, "We take this matter very seriously and are working closely with Arapahoe County Public Health (ACPH) to identify students or staff who may have been in close contact with the infected staff person. Arapahoe County Public Health will reach out directly to all staff members and families of students determined to be close contacts. Those individuals will be offered preventative antibiotics."
The high school will have school and district mental health support staff available when teachers and students return on Thursday.
Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis:
- High fever
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Loss of appetite
- Being disoriented, irritable, or confused
- Eyes sensitive to light
Contagious Period and Spread
Bacteria that cause meningitis can be spread by direct contact with saliva or nose/throat discharges of a person with infection. Infected individuals who do not have symptoms can still pass the bacteria to others. Symptomatic cases can be contagious until completing 24 hours of antibiotic treatment.
Suspected cases of meningitis should be referred to a health care provider. State or local public health agencies will notify close contacts if a preventative antibiotic is needed. Cases of bacterial meningitis and bloodstream infections often require hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics.
For questions about bacterial meningitis, reach out to Arapahoe County Public Health at 303-795-HLTH (4584).
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