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Clayton Heights Secondary School sent students home with a letter informing parents and guardians of the 15-year-old boy's death. (Surrey School District)

A Grade 10 student in Surrey, B.C., has died from what health authorities say is most likely meningitis.

The unnamed 15-year-old boy died last weekend. Clayton Heights Secondary School sent students home with a letter on Wednesday about the death, said Roy Thorpe-Dorward, a spokesman for the Fraser Health Authority.

The boy most likely died due to a bacterial meningococcal infection, he said on Thursday. Health officials were waiting for a confirmation from tests.

"We're trying to reassure parents and students and staff that although there has been a case that appears to be meningitis, it's an isolated incident," said Doug Strachan, a spokesman for the Surrey School District.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain, and can affect the lining of the brain or cause a blood infection. It can lead to brain damage or death.

The symptoms are flu-like, including fever, a severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, confusion, vomiting and a sensitivity to bright lights. They also include a reddish-purple, tiny, bruise-like rash.

Spread by direct contact with saliva

The bacteria is spread by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person, through kissing or sharing food, drinks, water bottles or the mouthpieces of musical instruments.

Health officials say there is no increased risk from touching the person's hands or being in the same area, like a classroom.

"Public health nurses are following up with the family, the school and close friends to determine anyone who might have been in very close contact with the student and could be at risk of illness," said Thorpe-Dorward.

Those people who were in close contact during the communicable period of Sept. 8-18 may need preventative antibiotics, he added.

About 35 to 50 cases are reported in B.C. every year, with an average of three people a year dying of bacterial meningitis.