Oologah-Talala Students Return To Class Monday Following Meningitis Outbreak
By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
OOLOGAH, OK -- Students in the Oologah-Talala School District returned to the classroom Monday morning for the first time since a deadly meningitis outbreak hit the district earlier this month.
Three children remain hospitalized with the disease.
On Wednesday, March 10th, the state health department learned a second-grader at Oologah Lower Elementary had the disease. The department did not recommend closing the school, but administered antibiotics to some students and staff.
On Thursday, March 11th, 7-year-old Andrew Thomas was hospitalized and died at about 6 a.m.
"He was just an awesome little boy, and I'm going to miss him every day," said Christie Wolf, Andrew's aunt.
About five hours later, Andrew's classmate, Shuache Moua, also passed away in a hospital bed -- less than 20 hours after coming home from school with a mild headache.
"It's not like she's been sick a long time and we not help her. It's just so fast, like you blink your eye," Va Moua, Shuache's mother, told The News On 6.
Another classmate, Bryce Bird, was hospitalized with a 104-degree fever.
"I felt like I needed a nap or something," said Bryce Bird, who is a meningitis survivor.
Doctors put 6-year-old Jeremiah Mitchell in a medically induced coma and gave him a 25 percent chance of surviving. Like the Moua family, Jeremiah's grandmother says there was almost no warning at all.
"Just like a cold. It was just like a cold, just had a fever. At that time, there was no nausea, no diarrhea, no body aches, just a fever," said Carolyn Mitchell, Jeremiah's grandmother.
Classes were canceled on Friday, March 12th, but 800 people showed up for antibiotic shots.
Three days later, lab tests confirmed a seventh student had meningitis, this time a high school senior.
"I was lying in bed and I thought maybe this medicine won't work for me, maybe I won't get over this. And maybe I will die like all of the other kids," said Karisa Pales, who is a meningitis survivor.
Some parents feel the school should have closed when administrators learned about the first meningitis case.
"If that would have been done, then maybe we could have caught it possibly in the other two. They might have gotten sick, but they might not have passed away," said Bobbie Bird, who is the mother of meningitis survivor Bryce Bird.
The health department says having more than one case at a time is highly unusual. It says the school did everything right when the situation worsened. Hundreds of students have received free vaccines, for long-term protection.
Students say they want to try to get things back to normal.
"I want to get back to school. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends," said Noah Inman, who is in the 6th grade.
A meningitis clinic to vaccinate students and staff from the Oologah-Talala School District was canceled Saturday because of bad weather. For those who had to wait, a public health nurse will be available Monday through Friday, March 22 through March 26, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the Omni Medical Clinic at 13134 Old S. Hwy 169 in Oologah.
For more information concerning vaccine clinics, call the Rogers County Health Department at (918) 341-3166.