• The closure was done "out of an abundance of caution"
  • Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges protecting the brain and spinal cord
  • The school is already scheduled to reopen

A school in Colorado has closed its doors for a few days following the death of a teacher, potentially from bacterial meningitis. What do people need to know about the infection?

Eaglecrest High School canceled activities on Tuesday evening and school on Wednesday after the death of teacher Maddie Schmidt, CBS News reported.

The efforts were done "out of an abundance of caution" after the Arapahoe County Public Health Department reportedly said Schmidt had symptoms that were consistent with bacterial meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges (membranes) protecting the brain and spinal cord. Although both viruses and bacteria may cause meningitis, viral meningitis is said to be more common. However, bacterial meningitis tends to be more serious and sometimes even fatal, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"Some people with the infection die and death can occur in as little as a few hours. However, most people recover from bacterial meningitis," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted, calling bacterial meningitis "serious."

"Those who do recover can have permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities," the agency added.

Bacterial meningitis can be contagious, though how it spreads depends on the type of bacteria causing it. For instance, if the culprit is Listeria monocytogenes, then it can spread through food.

Most of the germs causing the condition can spread from person to person, according to the CDC. For instance, if the pathogen is Neisseria meningitidis or Haemophilus influenzae, then it may spread through sharing respiratory secretions through close or prolonged contact.

Symptoms of the condition may include fever, headache, feeling confused, bruising easily, photosensitivity and a stiff neck with a limited range of motion.

"Bacterial meningitis is contagious," Johns Hopkins Medicine explained. "If you've been around someone who has it, call your health care provider to talk about how to keep from getting sick."

It is critical to be treated for bacterial meningitis "as soon as possible," according to the CDC.

In the school's letter to the parents, it noted that it is taking the situation "very seriously" and that it is working with authorities to identify those who may have had close contact with the "infected staff person." Those who will be identified as such will be offered antibiotics. This prophylaxis may help prevent the close contacts of the patient from getting sick.

"(Cases of bacterial meningitis are) fairly rare, thankfully," Dr. Robert Belknap of Denver Health told CBS News. "This is not something that people need to be concerned that the school is unsafe."

The school is set to reopen its doors on Thursday.

There are also preventative vaccines to protect against four of the bacteria that can cause meningitis. Those who have questions may contact their health care provider about these vaccines.

Representational image (School classroom)
Representational image (Source: Pixabay / Wokandapix)