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Incorrect posts scare parents in Wood County

By LOU WILIN
STAFF WRITER

CYGNET — Facebook posts Tuesday and Wednesday reported that a girl’s death was likely caused by contagious meningitis. The posts were incorrect, and put a scare into Cygnet area parents.

Privacy laws prevent the Wood County Health Department from identifying the girl who died. But bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal and contagious, was ruled out Tuesday afternoon, said Pat Snyder, health education, information and communications manager for the Health Department.

It will be determined at a future date whether the girl had viral meningitis, which also can be fatal but rarely is contagious, Snyder said.

Health officials do not believe the girl had any sort of meningitis, she said.

A health care provider first told the Health Department of a possible meningitis case at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. The Health Department then heard from worried people who approached the department, Snyder said.

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Health Department got word from the health care provider that bacterial meningitis had been ruled out.

But some parents were not done worrying. About 4:30 p.m. that day, the Health Department learned about a worrisome Facebook post.

Titled “Emergency Notification Alert,” it was addressed to “All Players, Coaches and Families in the Village of Cygnet and Southwood League Officers,” and appeared on multiple Facebook pages: “One of the CYGNET 12U GIRLS players has passed away sudden and unexpectedly. Testing is still being done, but at this time medical experts have told the family it is likely meningitis … Please do NOT take this matter lightly. All players were in contact with this child during their tournaments that were hosted in Cygnet between the dates of July 8, 2014 thru July 12, 2014.”

The Health Department has been working to quell the scare. It contacted the person who first posted the message, and it contacted the Cygnet mayor. It has posted a defusing message on its website.

But some people still lost sleep.

“Unfortunately, this (Facebook post) caused a lot of people some concern (Tuesday) night that they didn’t have to go through,” Snyder said Wednesday.

The Health Department received “multiple inquiries” from people fearful that a contagious strain of meningitis might be spreading, she said.

“This is a good example of … one, how quickly people can pass, share information on Facebook or by email. And then, how important it is for people to double-check the source of their information before they pass it on to their friends or share it on their Facebook page,” Snyder said.

Wilin: 419-427-8413
Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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