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Child dies of meningitis

Experts say strain that killed Springville girl is not easily spread

Published: Sunday, March 13 2005 2:44 p.m. MST

Rachel Bundy, 9, had flu-like symptoms and died Friday of bacterial meningitis.

KSL-TV

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SPRINGVILLE — A bacterial form of meningitis killed a 9-year-old Springville girl. But parents need not worry that children who came into contact with the girl, who died Friday, are at risk of contracting the disease.

Officials at the Utah County Department of Health said Monday the strain of meningitis that killed Rachel Bundy is not easily spread from person to person.

People who were in close contact to Rachel do not need to be treated with prescription drugs to prevent the infection, which attacks spinal cord fluid and brain tissue, said Lance Madigan, spokesman for the county health department.

Bundy was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center Friday afternoon. She died in the emergency room shortly after arriving at the Provo hospital, said Dr. Joseph Miner, health department director.

Hospital staff took spinal fluid and cultured it. On Saturday, they determined it was streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis, also known as pneumococcal bacteria, Miner said.

Bundy's parents said she fell ill Wednesday with flu-like symptoms. She complained of a headache and stiff neck and started to nap. "She passed away in her sleep," father Dorian Bundy said. "She went to sleep and never did wake up again."

Her mother, Terece Bundy, said Rachel was happy to help around the house and care for her younger brother and sister. Rachel wanted children of her own one day, she said, and always said she planned to name her oldest daughter Sunshine.

"She was already such a good little mom," Terece Bundy said.

Rachel Bundy was learning to play piano, liked to color and ride horses.

"She lived life to the fullest, every day. She was making plans, she was such a little organizer," Terece Bundy said.

The flu-like symptoms of severe headaches, fevers and stiff necks are common with meningitis, Miner said. People can lose consciousness and have seizures.

"It's hard to know you have it," Miner said. "We're not supposed to use antibiotics for every little cold. It's a judgment call on the person, families and the doctors, but you can tell from blood and cultures whether it's viral or bacterial. That's why it's important to see the doctor if a person is pretty sick."

In February, East High student Madeline Hales died of an infection possibly related to bacterial meningitis. In the hospital, staff could not get a spinal tap because of her unstable condition. Her family did not want an autopsy.

Family and close friends took antibiotics as a preventive measure.

In January 2004, an unidentified child died from a noncontagious, bacterial form of meningitis at Primary Children's Medical Center.

In December 2003, Judge Memorial Catholic High School student Demi Candelaria, 15, died from a brief but severe illness. Health officials suspected bacterial meningitis. However, antibiotics given to the girl may have cleared the bacteria from cultures.

Tests came back inconclusive.

Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis — the bacteria found in Rachel Bundy — is fairly common, and people can show no symptoms. The bacteria can cause pneumonia and other respiratory infections in children and adults, Miner said.

When it infects the blood or brain, it replicates quickly, and patients can die within hours, Miner said.

The vaccines Prevnar and Pneumovax can protect from infection, Miner said. Pneumovax has been used for decades. It's given to seniors and children and adults at risk for complications from respiratory infections.

Rachel probably was not vaccinated because Prevnar has only been available for about six years, Miner said.

"Kids under (age) 6 have been immunized (against the infection) — if they have been fully immunized," he said.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

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