, Gloucester, MA

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September 5, 2013

Viral meningitis hit GHS grid team; no health threat seen

More than a half dozen Gloucester High School football players are believed to have contracted a form of viral meningitis in August, but school and city health officials believe the virus has cleared up, that none are or were considered serious, and that there is no health threat to other students or to the public.

The city’s public health nurse, Lianne Cook, said today that there has only been one confirmed case of the viral meningitis, but others are likely, awaiting laboratory test results. Multiple members of the football team were admitted to the hospital in August, she confirmed. The football team began practice in August, more than two weeks prior to Wednesday’s first day of school.

All potential cases of the virus were reported to the state’s Department of Public Health in Boston, according to school district nurse leader Cindy Juncker.

Viral meningitis spreads through saliva and mucus, making students who play team sports particularly susceptible to the virus. It is usually characterized by symptoms including a high fever, stiff neck, headache sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite that last 7 to 10 days.

Unlike the potentially deadly bacterial meningitis, symptoms of viral meningitis usually clear up without antibiotics in about a week’s time.

The school handed out information fact sheets to the entire football team, and lectured players on the importance of not sharing water bottles and proper hand washing. The football team’s equipment was all cleaned too, according to Juncker.

Since the school has seen no new cases since August, according to Juncker, school officials have only addressed the students on the football team, not the student population at large.

The cases also pose no threat to Friday night’s opening football game, which follows the grand opening ceremonies for the city’s “new” Newell Stadium and will go on as scheduled.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at

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