A 10th grade student at Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County has been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis, prompting the school to send letters yesterday to parents.

The 16-year-old youth was in good condition in Fairfax Hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, where he was admitted Saturday, hospital spokesman Lon Walls said.

His was the second case of meningitis reported in the county this year, said Fred J. Payne, assistant director of health services.

Although the meningitis bacteria spread easily, the disease itself is rare and not considered highly contagious, Payne said. "We don't expect any secondary cases from this," he said.

School officials sent letters home yesterday to parents of Mount Vernon's 1,700 students explaining the disease, and stating that students with respiratory ailments -- the first symptom of meningitis -- should see their family doctors. No preventive measures were recommended.

Payne and other school officials also met with Mount Vernon teachers and staff to ease their fears. "There was a lot of apprehension about it," Payne said.

Meningitis -- an inflammation of the lining of the brain -- typically resembles the flu, with symptoms including muscle aches, a fever and, often, a severe headache.

Although often fatal if not treated, the fatality rate is only about 5 percent with proper medical care, Payne said.

Earlier this month, after two Montgomery County eighth graders and wrestling partners came down with bacterial meningitis, the county health department contacted parents of their classmates to urge preventive antibiotic treatment. Another Montgomery student was hospitalized last week with another form of meningitis, caused by a virus, and is expected to be released this week.

Payne said Fairfax County is not recommending the antibiotic treatment because it is unlikely that other students have the disease, and there are concerns that students could become resistant to the drug, Rifampin, which is the only known treatment for meningitis.