A Manassas Park Middle School teacher died of what doctors suspect is bacterial meningitis, a potentially fatal disease that sickened a University of Maryland student who is hospitalized in critical condition.
Manassas Park School Superintendent Thomas DeBolt said yesterday that Jane Dimitriou, 47, an eighth-grade English and French teacher, died Tuesday at Inova Fairfax Hospital after experiencing flulike symptoms last Wednesday.
Health officials sent letters to parents saying that students and faculty were not at high risk of contracting bacterial meningitis, which is spread through such close contact as sharing food and utensils.
"In a school, we simply don't expect that between a teacher and student," said Jared E. Florence, health director for Prince William County.
Florence said it is not known how Dimitriou may have contracted meningitis. He said officials do not think Dimitriou's illness was linked to the 20-year-old University of Maryland student who was hospitalized Tuesday. University officials confirmed yesterday that the male student has bacterial meningitis.
Florence said the letter to parents advised them to call a doctor or hospital if students showed such symptoms as high fever, severe neck stiffness and a rash.
DeBolt said "the health director has helped us to understand that we're not an at-risk population. I won't say that people aren't worried, but I will say that people feel confident in the medical information that they have."
At the University of Maryland, authorities are trying to find people who may have had close contact with the ailing college student in the last 10 days in order to give them preventive medicine. About 20 students living at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house were given a dose of the antibiotic Cipro, a university spokeswoman said.
Bacterial meningitis is not related to a form of encephalitis, West Nile fever, that has killed four people in New York state recently. That disease is caused by a virus.