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Hospital Runs Out of Antibiotics

by PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

ALLIANCE, Ohio (AP) -- A hospital on Sunday temporarily ran out of antibiotics for a meningitis outbreak that caused the deaths of two high school students in a week and left another critically ill.

A line of people was left waiting at Alliance Community Hospital, but a helicopter arrived by midday with fresh supplies. Hospital officials estimated 10,000 people had received the antibiotic since the outbreak began, and as many as 15,000 more would possibly need treatment.

Two Beloit West Branch High School students died after being diagnosed with the same strain of Neisseria meningitidis. It is spread by close contact, such as drinking out of the same container or sharing an eating utensil, health officials said.

Freshman Jonathan Stauffer, 15, died May 23, and Kelly Coblentz, 16, a sophomore, died May 25. Family members described the two West Branch students as friends, and both had attended an annual school picnic May 22. West Branch Superintendent Louis Ramunno said the two may have shared a water bottle at the picnic.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old student from Marlington High School, about 15 miles away, was diagnosed with an unidentified strain of Neisseria meningitidis, said Dr. Mark Hostettler, medical director of the Alliance Community Hospital.

A nursing supervisor at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron identified the student as Christin Van Camp. She was listed in critical condition Sunday and had attended the funeral of Coblentz Friday. Doctors expected to know by Sunday night if Van Camp had the same strain, Hostettler said.

Symptoms of meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and possible rash. There are about 3,000 cases of meningitis annually in the United States, said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Of those cases, 10 percent to 15 percent die from the disease.

He said of those who survive, some suffer permanent damage to their bodies, including brain damage. Health officials recommended anyone who had contact with local students receive preventive antibiotics.

Alliance-area students who were at an amusement park for Christian Youth Day Saturday were rounded up and sent to area hospitals to be treated. ''It's a pretty scary time. A lot of people are confused right now,'' said Chuck Hickman, who stood in line more than two hours in the rain at Alliance Community Hospital with his wife, Stacy, for antibiotics for his three children.

Marlington postponed its graduation ceremonies scheduled for Sunday, said schools spokesman Dan Buckel. Classes at West Branch were canceled Monday, but were to resume Tuesday, officials said. ''There's a lot of scared people,'' Buckel said. ''Obviously, it's a very emotional issue for parents.''

AP-NY-06-03-01 1550EDT<  06/03/2001

-- Swissrose (, June 03, 2001

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