Memorial Set for Suspected Meningococcal Disease Victim

By Monica Garske
|  Friday, Feb 21, 2014  |  Updated 7:14 PM PDT
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Students Dies from Suspected Meningitis

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Jewelean "Jewel" Pimentel, 14, died unexpectedly on Feb. 13 from suspected meningitis. She was a freshman at Patrick Henry High School.

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Plans are now in place for a memorial service for a San Diego-area high school student who died Feb. 13 from a suspected meningococcal bacterial infection.

Jewelean “Jewel” Pimentel, 14, a freshman at Patrick Henry High School, fell suddenly ill after attending school on Feb. 11, her family said in a statement Saturday.

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Family Identifies Suspected Meningitis Victim

Family and friends are mourning Jewelean Pimentel, a freshman at Patrick Henry High School who died Thursday from what doctors believe was a meningococcal bacterial infection.

Students Dies from Suspected Meningitis

A Patrick Henry High School student has died from suspected meningitis -- the same disease contracted by a Carlsbad man who lost both feet to the virus last year. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.
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From there, the teenager's illness moved devastatingly quickly. By Wednesday morning, Jewel had been admitted to the hospital. Her parents said she succumbed to her illness Thursday night.

A family spokesperson said a memorial will be held for Jewel on Friday at 2 p.m. at St. Therese Catholic Church located at 6016 Camino Rico in San Carlos.

A memorial fund has been established in Jewel's honor, which will help her family cover memorial and funeral expenses. To donate, click here.

Currently, the “Do it for Jewel” fund has raised more than $23,000 for the family in just under three days. The goal amount is $30,000.

In the meantime, county health officials are still trying to determine if meningococcal disease was definitely the cause of Jewel's death, as suspected. Those test results are expected soon.

Last week, San Diego County Deputy Public Health Officer Eric McDonald said friends and family who had been in close contact with Jewel had been given antibiotics to prevent getting the infection themselves. When asked how many people were exposed to her, McDonald estimated less than 100.

Patrick Henry High School faculty sent home letters to parents last week warning them to be on the lookout for signs of meningococcal disease in their children.

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Symptoms of the disease include fever, intense headaches, lethargy and stiff neck. The disease can also cause purple rashes that don’t change color when you press on them, and McDonald said Jewel had that rash.

Meningococcal bacteria can infect the blood or cause inflammation of tissues covering the brain and spinal cord, according to health officials.

The disease is spread through close contact, including sharing food, drinks, chapstick or by living in the same household with someone who's infected. Symptoms could take up to 10 days to surface.

On Monday, a Santee woman died suddenly of suspected meningitis.

Jackie Lerma Billings, 52, known to friends as “Jappy,” showed strains of meningitis in her system at the time of her unexpected death, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office.

Billings worked as a barista at a Starbucks in Santee, where she was loved by many.

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