The death of a Northern Virginia teen appears to have been caused by bacterial meningitis.
Madison Small died suddenly Tuesday after falling ill over the weekend. While health officials would not publicly identify Small as the victim, they confirmed one death in the county from meningococcal meningitis.
Small was a senior at Broad Run High School in Ashburn and played varsity softball for the school.
Timothy Small, Madison's father, said the outpouring of memories that has followed her death means a lot to him.
"I'm hearing more and more stories about how she took what we taught her and used those [things]," he said. "And that's the greatest memory that we've got. She's a wonderful daughter, a wonderful kid."
Madison was a star softball player, but is best remembered for her kindness.
"I couldn't be prouder," her father said. "I wish I could say more, but I'll just break up on that. ...I am so proud of her."
At Broad Run High School, a memorial has been set up to remember Madison, and on Friday, the varsity softball team gathered to honor her memory by wearing pink and her number, 24. On social media, students are using the hashtag #weplayfor24.
"The team obviously took it very hard, her loss," said Principal David Spage. "It's very hard for many of us, especially the team. And they've been bonding together, spending some time together, grieving this loss together."
While Madison died without warning, school officials said they're confident no one at the school is at risk.
"Right now, we see nothing that would really indicate there's any contagion in our schools or any reason for panic," said Wayde Byard of Loudoun County Public Schools.
Officials with the health department say they have received an increased number of calls from residents who may have been exposed to the infection. However, there's no evidence of a meningococcal meningitis outbreak at this time.
"Our thoughts are with the family during this very difficult time," said Dr. David Goodfriend, Director of the Loudoun County Health Department. "The Health Department is evaluating all of the reports that we received to identify whether anyone is at an increased risk of infection."
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms may include:
- High fever, chills
- Stiff neck
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aversion to bright lights
- possible rash
Bacterial meningitis is spread by direct contact with the secretions of an infected person, the health department said. Symptoms can develop two to 10 days after the time of exposure.
"The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to complete the recommended vaccine schedule," Goodfriend said.
Goodfriend also recommends frequent hand washing, as it is the most efficient way to help prevent the spread of many communicable diseases.
For more information, you can call the health department at 571-233-7317 or visit the CDC's website at cdc.gov/meningitis.