Two children who were classmates at the same Downtown Miami daycare center got sick and died just days apart, and health officials believe meningitis is to blame.
The YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Center Day Care in Miami is now voluntarily closed after a 22-month-old boy died on Dec. 3 after contracting pneumococcal meningitis, and a 2-year-old boy died December 10 from a suspected case of meningitis. The State Department of Health says lab tests are pending as to whether either child had the infection, and each diagnosis is unconfirmed, according to CBS News.
Yet, officials do not know if the cases are related or if it is coincidental. As of Dec. 12, the daycare has been voluntarily closed as a precaution and will remain so until it is cleared.
“We are devastated by the death of two small children who attended this child care facility and we continue to grieve with their families and loved ones,” Jessica Sims, Communications Director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, tells PEOPLE.
“DCF is committed to working closely with the Department of Health while we conduct a joint inspection at the Carol Glassman Donaldson Child Care facility in Miami-Dade County. Administration at the child care facility has voluntarily closed until they are cleared for reopening by DCF and DOH.”
Death from meningitis can occur in just a few hours, according to the CDC, and while most people recover, they may be left with permanent impairments such as brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities. Bacterial meningitis caused 500 deaths in about 4,100 cases in the United States each year between 2003 and 2007.
“We’re just devastated by this,” Kerry-Ann Royes, the director of the daycare, which can hold about 50 children, told The Miami Herald. “These are our babies.”
The newspaper reports that four days after the first child died, parents of children at the daycare were sent letters from the state announcing that a child had been diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis, but the note left out any mention that the child had died.
Dr. Reynald Jean, the head of epidemiology for the state health department’s office, told The Herald that both toddlers received their vaccinations, including the vaccination for pneumonia.
According to the CDC, babies are at increased risk for contracting bacterial meningitis, which can be spread by coughing or sneezing or coming into close contact with an infected person.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and confusion, and in babies, meningitis symptoms include irritability, vomiting, inactivity and being unable to feed efficiently. These signs can develop over the course of several days, usually appearing in three to seven days after exposure. After this stage, babies can experience seizures or coma.
The CDC says the best precaution parents can take to protect their children against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated on schedule, though, they add, they are not 100 percent effective. If any parent suspects their child to have meningitis, they are advised to immediately take them to the doctor.