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MENINGITIS CAUSED DEATH OF TODDLER, TESTS CONFIRM

Test results have confirmed a 4-year-old girl died Saturday from meningitis, public health officials said today.

Stephanie Weigold of 36 Perkins Place was found stricken in her home Saturday morning and rushed to Children's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 12:24 p.m.

The Erie County medical examiner's office, which performed an autopsy, has yet to rule on the death, but tests conducted at the hospital confirmed meningitis, said Jack Schwartz, an epidemiologist with the county Health Department, said today.

The county this morning sent a nurse to the Weigold home to obtain details of the girl's contacts and get the family to the hospital for treatment.

So far this year, there have been 43 cases of meningitis reported to health officials in Western New York. Three people died of the disease earlier this year.

Six-month-old Stephany A. Lay, of 293 1/2 Plymouth Ave., died on April 29. Cheryl L. Golding, 19, a kitchen worker in the Rebekah Nursing Home in Lockport, died April 20 in Lockport Memorial Hospital. On April 22, Lori Ann Engelken, 20, a Geneseo State College student from Holbrook, died in Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester after being diagnosed with the disease.

Officials consider all the cases sporadic and unrelated, said Greg Balzano, regional epidemiologist for the state Health Department.

In general, meningitis is a bacterial infection and inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. In some cases, it may be fatal, according to health officials. Another type, viral meningitis, is more mild.

Balzano said the deaths have been linked to forms of meningitis caused by different strains of bacteria -- haemophilus influenza and meningococcal meningitis. The latest death involved haemophilus influenza Type B.

In 1989, the Buffalo region reported 100 cases of meningitis, 48 of them confirmed bacterial forms of the disease.

Haemophilus influenza Type B is most common in children 3 months to 3 years old, health officials said. Symptoms include fever, nausea and vomiting. It is treated with antibiotics and preventable when infants are immunized with a vaccine.

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