Rhode Island toddler dies of suspected bacterial infection

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — More than a dozen children at a day care have been given preventative antibiotics as a precaution after a toddler there died of a suspected bacterial infection, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

The 13-month-old child, whose name has not been made public, died Tuesday of a suspected meningococcal infection, a Health Department spokeswoman said. The child had been exhibiting symptoms since Friday, she said.

As a result, 13 children at Children’s Workshop in Warren were given antibiotics. The Health Department worked with the day care to identify the victim’s close contacts in the 10 days before the symptoms began, the spokeswoman said.

She said there is no threat to any other child at the center.

Children’s Workshop President and CEO Maggie Teller said the day care remains open, and staff members are working closely with the Health Department and the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. The Children’s Workshop has 19 locations across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“We’re really saddened and grieving this loss because all our children are part of our larger family,” Teller said.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Health Department, visited the day care Wednesday to answer questions from parents and employees.

Meanwhile, the department is working to confirm that the infection was caused by meningococcal bacteria, which can sometimes — but not always — lead to meningitis, a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

Health officials say meningococcal infection is rare, and symptoms may appear two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days.

Symptoms may include high fever, fussiness, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, rash, nausea, increased sensitivity to light, confusion, body aches and joint pain.

“It is concerning when something is that contagious and they’re exposed to it,” said Chelsea Kopacz, whose son attends the same daycare.

Despite the concerns, Kopacz said her son will return to the Children’s Workshop on Thursday.

In February, two students at Providence College were hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis. People who had close contact with the students were given antibiotics, and health officials recommended that all students living on campus receive a new vaccine considered effective against type B meningitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be vaccinated against meningococcal disease at age 11 or 12.

Meningococcal bacteria are spread through saliva during close or lengthy contact, but most of the bacteria are not as contagious as the germs that cause the common cold or the flu, according to the CDC.

The Children’s Workshop released the following statement Wednesday:

The Children’s Workshop community is grieving the loss of one of our precious students and our hearts break for the child’s family. We are working closely with the Department of Health and DCYF and have notified all of the families in our care to ensure that all can take the proper preventative precautions. Our center is open today, there is no further threat to any of our students and we are operating normally. Our incredible team is working around the clock to help families and support them as needed. The Department of Health will field any further questions at (401) 346-8094.”

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