Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

All Children's Hospital contacts patients' families after death of therapist with meningitis-related infection

ST. PETERSBURG — All Children's Hospital on Tuesday began contacting about a dozen families whose children were exposed to an outpatient therapist who died Monday. The longtime employee had a bloodstream infection that can lead to meningitis.

Hospital officials said preliminary cultures suggest the employee had a bacterial infection that is often fatal, even before it crosses from the bloodstream to cause inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.

To prevent an outbreak, they are offering antibiotic therapy to exposed patients and family members who may have come into contact with the employee, who had not been scheduled to work for the past week. All Children's didn't know she was sick until she called in Monday — hours before her death — to say she thought she had the flu.

The infection she appears to have had is far less contagious than the common cold. It is transmitted by direct contact — kissing, sharing drinking glasses or coughing near another person. So the number of patients possibly exposed was limited, hospital officials stressed.

"As a therapist, she would have been touching patients," said Dr. Juan Dumois, director of pediatric infectious diseases at the hospital, noting that those at greatest risk for contagion were the therapist's immediate family.

"I'm less concerned about the patients, but we can't say the patient risk is zero and that's why we're going through all this effort," he said.

Hospital officials are identifying other staffers who came in close contact with the therapist to offer them antibiotics, too.

But these employees are not considered a risk to spread the disease, Dumois said. He noted that antibiotic treatment is effective at stopping the spread of the bacteria — and relatively harmless for the recipient. Children get two days of the drug Rifampin. Most adults need only a single dose of Cipro, best known as the anthrax treatment.

All Children's spokeswoman Ann Miller said the families of the exposed patients can expect to receive a call or voice mail message.

She declined to say more about the employee's work or where she lived, citing patient privacy laws. But she noted that the employee was concerned for her patients, calling in to let the hospital know that she wasn't feeling well and wouldn't see patients later this week.

"What we're doing," Miller said, "is an extension of those protective instincts."

Letitia Stein can be reached at or (813) 226-3322.


A primer on meningitis and antibiotics

What is meningitis?

An inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The All Children's employee had a bacterial blood infection that can lead to meningitis.

What are the symptoms?

High fever, headache and stiff neck are early symptoms of meningitis, and can be mistaken for flu. Later signs include a rash — usually on the arms, legs or torso — or large, irregularly shaped purple splotches.

Why are antibiotics given to people possibly exposed to meningitis?

Antibiotics, administered early, can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people.

What about vaccines?

There are several safe and effective vaccines to protect against different types of bacterial meningitis. The meningococcal vaccine that would protect against the infection raising concern at All Children's usually is given to adolescents and adults.

How contagious is bacterial meningitis?

The bacteria can mainly be spread from person to person through coughing, kissing and sneezing. None of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, All Children's Hospital

All Children's Hospital contacts patients' families after death of therapist with meningitis-related infection 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.