Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Meningitis news, death of student puts Zephyrhills High on edge

ZEPHYRHILLS — The parking lot at Zephyrhills High School was less crowded than usual on Thursday afternoon, as concerns swirled that a student there had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

The news came at the same time students learned a female schoolmate had died earlier in the week.

Neither school district nor county health department officials would link the two cases. But many students at Zephyrhills High did so in their minds.

They buzzed about the news as they left campus at the end of classes on Thursday.

"A lot of people are upset," sophomore Austin Clark said. "They've got the crisis people here. Everybody is real nervous that there is stuff going around."

The school district sent counselors to the high school to support students and staff members who knew the girl who died. District officials would not release her name, citing privacy laws and the parents' desire to keep the information to themselves.

A spokeswoman for the health department said investigators were working with the school to determine if any other students had been exposed to meningitis, which can be highly contagious, but only through "very close" person-to-person contact.

"We're not aware of any other additional cases," department spokeswoman Deanna Krautner said.

In fact, such cases are extremely rare: Pasco had no reported cases of meningitis last year, and only one case in each of the two previous years.

Still, rumors persisted in the school that illness was in the air. That was despite numerous reminders from principal Steve Van Gorden and other teachers that everything was fine and students should not freak out.

"People think they're going to die or catch it," said freshman Brandy Colbert.

The shock that a person they knew — whom they described as a sophomore who was "sweet" and "fun" — could be dead also permeated the mood.

Some people still were reeling from the motorcycle crash death of friend Corey Gillette, 19, whose viewing was later in the evening. Others invoked the recent deaths of students at Mitchell and Sunlake high schools, as well.

"I'm thinking, who's next?" said Tyler Conner, a 19-year-old former Zephyrhills High student who was walking past the campus with friends. "It seems like every week."

District officials have sent letters to parents of Zephyrhills High students alerting them to the facts about bacterial meningitis, a disease of the brain and spinal cord. Students at New River Elementary School also received the note, because the student's sibling attends there.

Health department and school district officials said no further information was available. They said they would make an announcement if more details can be released.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Meningitis news, death of student puts Zephyrhills High on edge

02/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 17, 2011 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Proino Breakfast Club owner charged with not paying state taxes


    LARGO — Just before noon on a recent Sunday at Proino Breakfast Club, the dining room was bustling as owner George Soulellis chatted with a customer.

    Proino Breakfast Club at 201 West Bay Drive in Largo. The owner was arrested last month on a theft of state funds charge, according to court records. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. No compatibility in sight for E-ZPass and Florida toll system


    When is the Florida DOT going to accept E-ZPass on its toll roads? Orlando's Central Expressway accepts it.

    Catherine Needham

    Lorrie Lykins
  3. Navy expected to relieve admiral in charge of 7th Fleet in response to deadly disasters at sea


    The Navy will relieve the senior admiral in charge of the service's 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea, two U.S. officials said.

    Tugboats assist the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain on its way to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on Monday. [U.S. Navy]
  4. Trump chides media over Charlottesville


    President Donald Trump is blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Va., protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester.

    Trump met service members before the rally.
  5. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'


    There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.