SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBS4) – Parents and students at Coral Reef Senior High were put on high alert Friday after a fellow student contracted bacterial meningitis and died.

The student, Christopher Valdes, 18, was a senior at the school.

Investigators say Valdes was at home when he fell ill and was taken to Jackson South Medical Center where he later died.

According to Dr. Alvaro Mejia-Echeverry, an epidemiologist with the Miami-Dade Health Department, the illness progressed quickly.

“There was an urgent care visit yesterday [Thursday] and then the patient deteriorated fast,” he said, adding the student died within an hour after arriving at the hospital. “There is treatment for this infection, but when the person arrives at the emergency room in such an advanced stage unfortunately doctors cannot do much at that point,” said Mejia-Echeverry.

Miami-Dade Schools spokesperson John Schuster said the school board was working with the health department to make sure all precautions were taken, including circulating a letter explaining the condition to students.

Health officials say the type meningitis the Valdes died from was bacterial, and not related to the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak. They also said schools are not locations where meningitis is easily transmitted, however officials are are urging parents to look out for several symptoms including:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck and a rash

These symptoms may appear two to ten days after an exposure, but more commonly three to four days after exposure. If the child exhibits any of those symptoms, officials say take them to the doctor immediately.

Students went home with a list of symptoms.

“I was really scared because the paper had symptoms and said if you had any to get checked out, and then you see people crying,” said Sapphire Villafana, a sophomore at Coral Reef.

Another sophomore, Nijee Johnson, had a lot of questions.

“Where did he get it from if he had it?” he asked, “because the paper said the virus is contagious and if it’s contagious he must have caught it from somebody.”

But doctors say it’s impossible to pinpoint where the illness originated.

“Bacterial meningitis is acquired the same way the flu is acquired and it’s usually happens in a random manner,” said Mejia-Echeverry.

The infection is transmitted by direct, close contact with nose or throat discharges of an infected person, including kissing and sharing of food and beverages.

Students will return to school Monday as normal.

Any questions may be directed to the Miami-Dade County Health Department at (305) 470-5660.