Three school districts in Rhode Island were closed last week while health officials searched for possible links between several cases of severe illness among students, including one death of a 2nd grader.
In addition, a five-day course of antibiotics was recommended for students, employees, and their family members at Greenwood Elementary School in the 11,500-student Warwick district, which was closed down Jan. 3 for the rest of the week. Dylan Gleavey, the 7-year-old who died Dec. 21, attended the school. He had encephalitis, a rare complication of pneumonia infection. In addition, one of his classmates was hospitalized with meningitis, another rare complication of pneumonia, and a 5th grader at the school was diagnosed with pneumonia.
Other pneumonia cases have been reported in the 6,000-student Coventry district and the 4,000-student West Warwick district, which were also closed.
The pneumonia cases are believed to have been caused by mycoplasma bacteria, which generally cause relatively uncomplicated cases of “walking pneumonia,” doctors said.
“We expect to see [mycoplasma] every year, but we’re looking to determine whether or not we’re seeing more than normal, and we did at Greenwood,” Dr. David R. Gifford, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, said in an interview with the Warwick Daily Times.
In addition to state health officials, epidemiologists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in Rhode Island to help in the investigation.
A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2007 edition of Education Week