Oologah Schools, Health Department Work To Contain Deadly Illness
By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
UNDATED -- An outbreak of meningitis has led to the deaths of two Oologah-Talala elementary school students. Seven-year-old Andrew Thomas died Wednesday. The death Thursday was of an 8-year-old girl.
Four other children are hospitalized.
To help contain the illness, authorities are treating those who were in contact with the children who are now hospitalized. Over 600 children, parents, teachers and staff were treated with antibiotics on Thursday.
The second-grade boy who died Wednesday is connected to these other students through bus routes and a gym class at the school. They were not all in the same classroom all day.
The school system announced late Thursday evening that children who have ridden on Oologah buses Nos. 1, 7, 12 or 17 are asked to visit the clinic at the Lower Elementary Gym on Friday. The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Late Thursday, a steady stream of parents went to the school gym to get a shot of antibiotics for their children. Health authorities delivered 1,000 doses of antibiotics to stop the illness in anyone else who might have been exposed.
Doctors say that despite the fact it has spread, it's not typically easily spread because that requires direct contact through saliva.
"Being in the same classroom does not place you at risk for this disease. It has to be much closer contact such as sharing a drink or a cup," said Dr. Robert Gray, Omni Medical Group.
The Oologah-Talala School District has pre-k though second grade classes in one building. Classmates and staff are getting the antibiotics. Authorities say it's only a precaution for people who might have been exposed to the ill students.
All day, worried parents and grandparents pulled their children out of classes.
"Yeah, I'm concerned, really concerned. That's bad stuff, nothing to mess with," one parent said.
Doctors say it's important for children in close contact to get the treatment, and for Oologah parents, a good precaution to monitor any illness for the next few days.
"If there's sign of illness, particularly fever, it's time to go to the doctor and I would say whether day or night, if my child had any chance of being around these kids, I would go, even to an emergency department, to be checked out," Dr. Gray said.
Dr. Gray says fever is the first indicator - the other symptoms come later, and for the next few days parents of exposed children in Oologah should not wait and see - but seek treatment.
The state health department has set up a phone bank to answer questions. Call 1-866-278-7134 on Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.