AURORA | Arapahoe County Public Health is working with the Cherry Creek School District to identify the close contacts of an Eaglecrest High School employee who died of meningitis over the weekend.
A second school employee has also died, but health officials have not said if the deaths are connected, or if the second death was attributed to meningitis.
“For the general public, the risk is low,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Urbina said at a news conference the health department held Wednesday afternoon.
Meningitis causes inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, and symptoms can develop and worsen quickly. It can be treated with antibiotics.
About seven meningitis cases are identified in Colorado each year, Urbina said.
In a Monday message to families, Eaglecrest Principal Gwen Hansen-Vigil said school paraprofessional Judith Geoffroy and teacher Maddie Schmidt had both died over the last 24 hours. Both worked in the school’s Integrated Learning Center program, which serves students with a variety of special needs.
On Tuesday, the district sent out a message saying that testing from Arapahoe County Public Health found Schmidt had symptoms consistent with bacterial meningitis and that the district would be working with the department to do contact tracing of the people she had been in close contact with.
Geoffroy’s cause of death has not been released, according to county officials.
As a precautionary measure, school was canceled Wednesday at Eaglecrest, along with all athletics and after school activities scheduled to take place. SAT and PSAT testing scheduled to take place Wednesday was rescheduled.
At the press conference, Arapahoe County Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig extended her sympathies to the school district.
“This is a very difficult time for the whole community,” she said.
Ludwig said the health department learned about the case yesterday after a lab-confirmed test.
As of yesterday evening, Ludwig said 10 close contacts had been identified and that the investigation is ongoing. The department is working to identify who may be at risk of contracting the disease because of their proximity to Schmidt and connect them to medical care if necessary.
Ludwig said Cherry Creek Schools has been “fantastic” at helping the department to reach people.
“It’s very important that we notify close contacts as quickly as possible, because the time frame in which to reach them so they can seek medical care is very short,” she said.
Relatively extended contact with an infected person is required to contract the disease, Urbina said. Symptoms of meningitis include a stiff neck, high fever, severe headache, nausea, sleepiness and eye sensitivity to light.
Cherry Creek spokesperson Lauren Snell told the Sentinel that Geoffroy’s death is still under investigation.
At the press conference, Ludwig said the department is only investigating one case at this time. She declined to answer a question about whether Geoffory was a close contact of Schmidt.
On Wednesday afternoon, the district said that school and normal activities would resume at Eaglecrest on Thursday. Snell said that the Integrated Learning Center program will be closed Thursday and Friday and will fully re-open on Monday.
Those with concerns about meningitis can contact Arapahoe County Public Health at 303-795-4584.