OOLOGAH, OK -- A seventh student from the Oologah-Talala School District has been sickened by the strain of meningitis that has already killed two children from Oologah schools.
Karisa Pales, 18, is the first high school student from Oologah to be diagnosed with the disease. Instead of enjoying the final days of her last year in high school, Karisa posts on her Facebook page she's stuck in the hospital.
Her father says quick action by Oologah-Talala school officials and doctors might have saved her life.
"I just feel so helpless in this, so at that point I thank God and thank the Lord we never reached that point, that due to the school, due to Bailey and due to Saint Francis, she's gonna recover and be at 100 percent," said Stephen Pales, Karisa's dad.
Stephen says his daughter came down with flu-like symptoms on Thursday and on any other day it might have gone untreated. But that was the day two young children died from meningitis and school officials were warning parents about symptoms -- Karisa had them all.
"There are so many families suffering right now. So many people are praying. It's a disease where one minute they're fine and the next minute they're down. And within 24 hours the worst could happen," said Stephen.
Stephen says doctors treated Karisa for meningitis, even though all of her initial tests came back negative. Her case wasn't confirmed until Monday.
Stephen is scared to think of what would have happened to his little girl if doctors hadn't taken action when they did.
"She would have went home, it would have continued to progress until she was in the full blown illness. And at that point, there's nothing you can do to help your child. You feel so helpless in this," said Stephen.
As prayers and heartfelt messages fill the wall on Karisa's Facebook page, her father's heart goes out to those children who weren't as lucky as his own.
"It is very unfortunate though that we've lost some of the community there with those children. That is the worst. I don't even want to think about it with my child," said Stephen.
And he wants to warn others to keep an eye out because his daughter proves catching it early is crucial.
"Just watch your child. If your child develops any kind of flu-like symptoms, take it serious. It's not to play around," said Stephen.
Monday night, parents received an automated emergency call from the Oologah-Talala School District informing them of the new case and asking all high school vocal music students, including the chamber choir and mixed choir, to report to the Rogers County Health Department on Tuesday, 2664 North Highway 88 in Claremore.
It also explains that if any student is experiencing flu-like symptoms, including a stiff neck or rash, to go to urgent care or an emergency room immediately.
This increases the number of cases state and local public health officials are investigating to seven.
The state reports Karisa has had no known contact with the other six confirmed cases. The children in the previous cases were all under 8-years-old.
Two elementary children have died, 7-year-old Andrew Thomas and 9-year-old Shuache Moua.
As a preventive measure, the Rogers County Health Department will host a special clinic Tuesday, to provide antibiotics for family members and close contacts of Karisa Pales.
Public health officials stress that the general public is not at risk. Only persons who have had close, personal contact to a person with a meningococcal infection have a slightly increased risk of developing the disease.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease may appear two to ten days after infection. People ill with meningococcal septicemia may have fever, nausea, vomiting and a rash. People that are ill with meningitis will have fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck. Officials say it is important to seek care from a physician as soon as possible if these symptoms appear.
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