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Further tests required to confirm cause of death, Columbia County Public Health investigating

A St. Helens High School student died earlier today and doctors suspect bacterial meningitis may have been the cause of death.

Further tests are required to confirm the cause of death. Those test results should be released later this week, according to a press release from Columbia County.

Bacterial meningitis spreads from close personal contact "when there is direct contact with mucus from an infected person's nose or throat," the press release explained.

Most people recover from meningitis, but it can cause permanent brain damage or death in just a few hours, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infection can be spread by carriers who never exhibit symptoms.

Columbia County Public Health is investigating who may have come into contact with the student. Individuals who had close contact with the deceased student will receive preventative antibiotics.

Treatment is often effective, particularly when administered quickly after symptoms first appear.

Sudden symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, skin rashes, confusion or irritability.

"Symptoms can appear two to 10 days after exposure, but usually occur within three to four days," the county stated.

There are multiple types of meningitis, which all cause inflammation of membrances around the brain and spinal cord.

Questions should be directed to Columbia County Public Health at 503-397-7247.

The 16-year-old student was a sophomore and member of the school's wrestling team, according to the county press release.

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