By Adam Kramer
It turned out that a Jamaica boy who was initially thought to have died from meningitis last week after becoming sick at PS 140 did not succumb to the deadly disease, published reports said.
William Copeland, 10, a fifth-grader at PS 140 at 116th Avenue and 166th Street, was stricken by a rare blood infection closely related to meningitis, according to the Daily News, which quoted unnamed city officials. He died at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica at 8:15 p.m. March 26, a little more than 40 minutes after he was taken to the hospital.
The medical examiner said the cause of death had not yet been determined.
“He became ill in school and school officials called EMS,” said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the city Board of Education. “After his father arrived, he declined to take the boy to the hospital.”
The News said the boy’s father, William Copeland Sr., 40, decided not to take his son to the hospital because school officials told him his son was only running a slight fever and had injured his leg in a lunch-time fight.
The News reported that based on what the school told Copeland Sr., he chose to take his son home instead of to the hospital.
Meningitis is caused by a bacterial infection that causes dangerous swelling of the brain’s thin lining and spinal cord, which can be deadly if not caught early.
Ortiz said the Board of Ed did not find out what had happened until March 27 when it was contacted by the city Department of Health. He said there was no reason to close down the school because meningitis can only be transmitted by close contact.
He said if parents thought their child had come into close contact with Copeland, they should take their child to a physician for a checkup.
“The disease is not spread through casual contact,” said Greg Butler, a spokesman for the city Department of Health. “There needs to be direct contact in an intimate setting like a household, military barracks or a college dorm.”
He said coming into contact with meningitis in a classroom or an open air setting is not considered close contact.
“Our sympathies go to the family of the young student,” City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said. “I will be conferring with a disease intervention specialist from the Department of Health to determine if all necessary precautions have been taken.
“Our main focus, must be on protecting our children, not creating a paranoia,” he said. “The health of our children comes first.”