ILWACO, Wash. - The outbreak of viral meningitis prompted Ocean Beach School District officials to cancel classes today so the schools can be disinfected. Thursday night school events were canceled as well as tonight's Ilwaco football game against Woodland.

Pacific County Health Director Kathy Spoor said a new case of viral meningitis was reported Thursday at Ilwaco Junior/Senior High School. The Long Beach Peninsula now has nine confirmed cases, along with 10 suspected cases.

Ilwaco school nurse Dot Gramson said the additional case contributed to the closing, but was not the only reason.

"If activities were going all weekend, you couldn't have the school disinfected," she said.

While the virus isn't typically passed from surface contact, Spoor said the health department supports the closure.

"Most of the cases seemed to have had direct contact," she said.

Health officials believe the Ilwaco cases are linked to a case of a Seaside Heights student, who reported the illness this week. At least two Astoria adults were also exhibiting symptoms this week, but officials do not believe those cases are linked to the Seaside or Ilwaco cases.

School officials also said there was a probable case of viral meningitis at Hilltop Elementary School in Ilwaco.

Five to six adults also visited the hospital Thursday with viral symptoms. They have not yet been confirmed to be meningitis. One adult was a parent of an infected child, Spoor said.

Meanwhile, in northwest Washington's Skagit County, a 14-year-old LaConner High School student with the more serious bacterial meningitis was described Wednesday as being in critical condition in a Seattle hospital, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.

An update on his condition was not available Thursday night because of federal privacy laws.

Health officials in Skagit and Snohomish counties were giving antibiotics to 125 people who may have been exposed to the potentially fatal bacterial meningitis. They include students and staff at La Conner High School, La Conner and Concrete junior varsity football players, and members of an intramural basketball league that played last weekend in Mount Vernon.

The infected boy is a member of the junior varsity football team that played Concrete in La Conner, and also was on an intramural basketball team that played a Marysville team Sunday at Skagit Valley College.

As a precaution, La Conner has postponed a scheduled home football game tonight against Forks.

The bacterial meningitis case is not related to an outbreak two weeks ago of the less serious viral meningitis that infected 14 members of the Mount Vernon football team.

Symptoms of viral meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal membranes, include severe headache, drowsiness, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. The illness is often spread through direct contact with saliva or nasal mucus, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Each person's body responds differently to exposure, Spoor said.

"We could both even kiss the same person with a known virus," and not necessarily contract the disease, she said. "We're not seeing a lot of transmission in families."

However, the dose of exposure does seem to be a factor in contraction, she said.

Bacterial meningitis can cause death in as many as 20 percent of cases and can leave survivors brain-damaged. Symptoms include nausea, high fever, intense headaches, rash, sensitivity to light and lethargy.


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