NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County health officials are investigating whether bacterial meningitis caused the death of a preschooler Sunday.
The boy’s body has been tested and results are expected back at some point Wednesday or Thursday, according to Deanna Krautner of the Pasco County Health Department.
“We were notified of a death in a suspect case of meningitis,” Krautner said Wednesday morning. “We don’t have any confirming results yet.”
Amonti Saunders, 4, of Holiday, died at a hospital Sunday, the morning after coming down with a fever at his home.
The boy’s preschool, Kid’s Safari Christian Preschool in New Port Richey, was closed Monday for cleaning and other precautions. The school reopened Tuesday, school chairman Mark Schiefer said.
“We were in constant contact with the health department and we followed their guidelines,” Schiefer said. “And we got, I guess you would call it, a clean bill of health from them and they recommended that we could reopen.”
Those who were in contact with the child received vaccines as a precaution, Krautner said. They were also given educational material regarding the bacteria.
Schiefer said the health department recommended children at the preschool who were in contact with Amonti be vaccinated as a precaution as well. Although he did not have an exact number, Schiefer said all who were in contact did receive an antibiotic vaccination.
He said parents at the school have been extremely supportive.
“Their biggest concern was about the family,” Schiefer said, “the loss and how they were sorry for the family.”
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and the spinal cord and can be caused by virus or bacteria. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can include high fevers, headaches, stiff necks, rashes, nausea, an inability to stay awake and confusion.
The disease is transmitted through shared saliva or other throat secretions. People cannot be infected by being in the same room as someone who is ill. Experts say children are most at risk, along with older adults and people with long-term health problems.
“There are vaccines available, but they’re not required,” Krautner said. “But outside of that it is about proper hygiene and washing your hands and encouraging those who are sick to stay home and get the treatment they need. So if you’re out there, make sure you’re washing your hands. Not sharing utensils is another thing we talk about.
“Something like meningitis is not as contagious as a cold and it’s passed from saliva droplets, so avoiding that is really what’s important. Making sure tissues that are used get thrown away. No sharing of cups or utensils or anything like that.”