BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 11, 2015–Things were back to normal today at Stella Maris School in Belize City following a brief suspension of classes at the end of last week due to concerns arising from the death of a young student who had been recently diagnosed with a severe case of meningitis.
That student, Victoria Cal, 5, of Hunter’s Lane, Belize City, who was impaired in speech and hearing, died at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital last Monday, May 4, just three days after contracting the deadly condition.
Last Friday, May 8, a post-mortem exam was conducted on Cal’s body which stated that she died of “Cerebral Edema due to Purulent Meningitis.”
Later that day, the media spoke with her grieving father, Mario Cal, who explained that her death is especially painful because she had already struggled to overcome a life-threatening illness at the time of her birth.
He said, “When she was born, we asked if everything is okay with the baby and they told us that everything is normal, but about two weeks after, we found out that she couldn’t stool, so we went back to the hospital for them to help her, but they said that she had to get treatment abroad. That was too expensive for me, but I managed to get some healthcare professionals to do the operation for her so that she could have started to stool.”
“We were thankful that we were able to save her life at that time because we spent what we could have spent then, but now, we couldn’t do anything and she left me. It really hurts because this is not the first time that this has happened to my family. I had another daughter before her that I loved too, and she left me as well,” Cal lamented.
Meningitis is an ailment that can be contagious, depending on the type, and as a result, apprehension had been building among certain parents who have a child/children attending the school.
One concerned parent to whom we spoke informed us that he was issued a note on Thursday which stated that classes would be suspended until today, Monday; however, no explanation was reportedly given in regards to the reason for the closure.
We were also told that health officials, who had been at the school carrying out requisite inspections, distributed capsules to students after classes last Thursday, presumably to stave off the illness.
However, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, the Interim Head of the Epidemiology Unit at the Ministry of Health, has insisted that there is no need for alarm based on the results of the autopsy conducted on Cal.
Today, he told Amandala that since Cal did not die from meningococcal meningitis, which is one of the more dangerous and contagious strains of the virus, the public health inspectors have wrapped up their assessment, because there are “no epidemiological concerns” surrounding Cal’s death.
He did point out that while the form of meningitis with which the young student was stricken is “serious”, it is “not contagious”, and therefore, the decision was made to have classes resume at the school today.
The Ministry of Education has also been looking into the matter, and today, when we checked with them regarding measures that might be put in place in the wake of the scare, we were told that as soon as they get the relevant information, it will be passed on to us.
According to Wikipedia, meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs.
Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore, the condition is classified as a medical emergency in some cases.