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Officials: Bacterial meningitis kills two Oklahoma students

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Meningitis hits school
  • Students from Oologah-Talala public school district in rural Oklahoma
  • Authorities are investigating four other possible cases of bacterial meningitis
  • Medical team may screen students, begin vaccinations, school superintendent says

(CNN) -- Authorities are investigating six possible cases of bacterial meningitis -- including two deaths -- in rural Oklahoma elementary school students.

The Rogers County Health Department and Oklahoma State Department of Health said two children from Oologah-Talala public school district have died from the disease. One of them was an 8-year-old, said Superintendent Rick Thomas.

Thomas said school was canceled Friday for the district.

"We just feel like we would rather err on the side of caution," he said, although he has urged parents to remain calm.

The state health board said it was providing antibiotics to the schools to help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease -- caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis -- which can appear as pneumonia, septicemia or meningitis.

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A medical team at Oologah Lower Elementary School screened more than 100 people including faculty, CNN affiliate KOTV reported. Authorities said the team is offering antibiotics to other students and faculty in the district, and there is enough medication for about 1,000 people, the affiliate reported.

Last year, 16 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in Oklahoma and one person died, the board said.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may appear two to 10 days after infection, but typically within three to four days, the state board said.

People ill with meningococcal septicemia may have fever, nausea, vomiting and a rash, it said. Those with meningitis will have fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck.

"It is important to seek care from a physician as soon as possible if these symptoms appear," the board said.

Oologah is about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa.