Meningococcal Disease Confirmed as Cause of Student's Death

Jewelean Pimentel died from the disease despite having the vaccine designed to protect against it

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    Officials at a San Diego-area high school confirmed Friday that it was a strain of meningococcal disease that killed a 14-year-old girl on Feb. 13.

    In a letter sent to parents, Patrick Henry High School Principal Listy Gillingham said the county public health department determined Jewelean Pimentel died from a “Group Y” strain of meningococcal (also known as meningococus) bacteria.

    Gillingham said that strain should be covered by the MCV4 vaccine, which Pimentel received two and a half years ago.

    However, because it failed to protect Pimentel, health officials will look into the specific batch she received to check its quality.

    “So, why did she get the disease? It could be because no vaccine is 100% effective,” Gillingham’s email said.

    Nevertheless, the principal continued to recommend students ages 11 and up receive the MCV4 vaccine to prevent contracting the disease.

    While they can cause meningitis, meningococcal bacteria also cause blood infections, which is what killed Pimentel.

    Health officials said Pimentel’s case was isolated, meaning there were no other cases and no epidemic potential.

    On Friday, a moment of silence marked a PHHS pep rally in honor of Pimentel and her family.

    The school has planned a green candlelight ceremony – where cell phone app candles or flashlights will be used instead of real candles – for Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. in the center of the PHHS quad.

    Had Pimentel's strain not been covered by the MCV4 vaccine, health officials would have had to import the European vaccine, as they did during a meningitis outbreak at UC Santa Barbara