Oakland Co. officials warn of meningitis threat at gym

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The Oakland County health department said 219 children who attended a day camp this month at a Lifetime Fitness gym in Rochester Hills may have been exposed to bacterial meningitis from an infected worker.

Officials are notifying parents of the children who attended the day camp between July 1 and 11 of the potentially deadly disease and urging them to be assessed by a doctor and be put on antibiotics, said George Miller, director of Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services.

They said the employee had worked only in the day camp and did not work in other parts of the gym.

“It’s a lot of people and it’s also children,” Miller said in a late-night news conference at the county’s South Oakland Health Center in Southfield called to alert the public. “We’re being diligent about it.”

The nighttime news conference “speaks to the impact and response of public health these days,” Miller said.

The employee, who lives in Macomb County, was not identified, and currently is hospitalized, Miller said.

Bacterial meningitis is not spread through casual contact, said Kathy Forzley, manager/health officer of the Oakland County Health Division.

“The disease is not spread through casual contact or by simply being in the same room as an infected person,” said Forzley. “A person must have direct contact with an infected person’s saliva or nasal secretions. If exposed, the incubation period is one to 10 days.”

Infected people would show signs of the disease by July 21, she said. Antibiotics for post-exposure is urged “even if vaccinations have been received previously,” a county news release said.

“Although the risk of disease is low,” those who may have been exposed are advised to watch for signs of the disease, which include a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and sometimes a rash.

However, Forzley said “the only people that need this antibiotic are the children that came in contact” with the gym employee.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, bacterial meningitis “is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours.”

Forzley said the county is “exercising an abundance of caution” in notifying parents.

Those worried about exposure can call the county’s on-call nurse at 1-800-848-5533 or go to oakgov.com/health.


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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau