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3 teachers die amid possible meningitis outbreak in Colorado school district

Composite screenshot of KUSA-TV video (Featured: Maddie Schmidt and Judith Geoffrey | Not pictured: Scott Nash)

Three teachers in the same Colorado school district have died in quick succession, prompting concerns as authorities grapple with a possible bacterial meningitis outbreak.

Last weekend, three faculty members of Cherry Creek School District all passed away: 24-year-old Maddie Schmidt, 63-year-old Judith Geoffroy, and Scott Nash, whose age is unknown. Schmidt's case caused the most alarm since, at the time of her death, she exhibited "symptoms consistent with bacterial meningitis," the school district said.

Bacterial meningitis is a serious illness that infects the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and it can be transmitted through bodily fluids, such as saliva or the mucus from a runny nose. Bacterial meningitis can be fatal, though early diagnosis and aggressive antibiotic treatments both increase the chances for survival. Common symptoms include a severe headache, stiff neck, and high fever.

"Arapahoe County Public Health will reach out directly to all staff members and families of students determined to be close contact" with Schmidt, the district said in a statement. "Those individuals will be offered preventative antibiotics."

Arapahoe County Public Health stated that there has been just one confirmed case of bacterial meningitis in the county thus far, but since Schmidt's cause of death has not been officially determined, it is unclear whether she might be a second case.

Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, Colorado, where Schmidt worked in student achievement services, was closed Wednesday to help with contact tracing and "to create some space for that community" to grieve, the district said. Judith Geoffrey, a paraprofessional, also worked alongside Schmidt at Eaglecrest's Integrated Learning Center, an area of the school designated for special education.

The official cause of death for each woman has yet to be determined. Their remains continue to undergo ancillary testing, reports say. Once officials have the results of those tests, their respective causes of death will be shared with the public.

The other teacher who died over the weekend, Scott Nash, was a physical education teacher at Willow Creek Elementary School who also coached freshman baseball at Cherry Creek High School. His cause of death has not been released, but the district indicated that it was unconnected to the deaths of Schmidt and Geoffrey.

"We have no reason to believe that was bacterial meningitis," district spokeswoman Abbe Smith said of Nash.

"Scott has been an invaluable part of our Willow Creek community for the last two years, supporting students K-5 in our physical education program," said Willow Creek Principal Mary Whitney. "He will undoubtedly be missed by students and staff alike."

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