Parents in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County should monitor their children carefully and watch for high fevers or other signs of meningitis, a Fairfax County health official advised last night.

Two cases of the potentially fatal disease, an inflammation of the lining of the brain, have been recorded in southern Fairfax in the last week.

Dr. Fred J. Payne, assistant director of the Fairfax County Health Department, told about 80 parents and students at an open meeting at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School last night that the chances their children will contract meningitis are slight.

Payne, who offered advice and information on the disease for about an hour, said the risk to students, although real, is too small to warrant closing schools or administering antibiotics.

"The main thing is to make [parents] aware there is a risk," said Payne. But "the risk is so small there's nothing we can do about intervention." He advised parents to keep an eye on their children, and to contact a doctor if a child's fever reaches or surpasses 102 degrees.

"Keep your eyes open and watch your kids for next week or so."

Besides high fever, other early symptoms of meningitis include headache, stiff neck and muscles, vomiting and tiny bruises on the skin.

One of the two children who have the disease is a 5-year-old in kindergarten at Mount Vernon Woods and the other is a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School; both have the form of the disease caused by bacteria. Payne said both are doing well.

Three Montgomery County students were hospitalized with the disease this month, two with the bacterial form and one with viral meningitis.