Meningitis Kills Queens School Counselor, Long Island Student

NEW YORK (AP) - A guidance counselor at a Catholic school inQueens has died of bacterial meningitis.

City health officials say the victim was on the faculty at theSaint Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadow.New York City investigators are still looking into whether anyrelatives or close friends of the victim might have been at risk ofcontracting the disease, which is contagious but is not spreadthrough casual contact.

A high school student in Massapequa, on Long Island also diedfrom the disease this week.

The student's case of meningococcal meningitis developed so fast that he died withina day of starting to feel sick, relatives and health officialssaid.

Massapequa High School senior Michael Gruber, 17, took a stateRegents exam Wednesday and went to bed with flu-like symptoms thatnight. By Thursday morning, he so ill he was taken to a localhospital. By Thursday afternoon, he was dead, family members andofficials said.

"He went to bed fine, and he woke up dying," aunt Heidi Saccosaid.

Acting Nassau County Health Commissioner Abby Greenberg said thebacterial infection is known to progress quickly, but not usuallyquite so fast.

Gruber was the first person to die of meningococcal meningitisin Nassau County since 2004, Greenberg said. About 300 peoplenationwide die of the disease every year, and 2,500 are infected,according to the state Health Department.

The illness infects the bloodstream or the meninges, a liningcovering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include a highfever, headache, vomiting, a stiff neck and a rash.

The germ can be spread by direct, close contact with dischargesfrom an infected person's nose or throat. The county HealthDepartment said it was advising close contacts of Gruber's to getpreventive treatment.

The teen played on the St. Rose of Lima Catholic YouthOrganization basketball team and worked part-time as a supermarketstock boy, the health department said. He was considering pursuinga law degree, his aunt said.

(From Associated Press reports)