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Meningitis claims St. Francis Prep counselor

"I was seriously surprised because (the school) said she was getting better," said senior Keturah Reed outside the Fresh Meadows Catholic school, noting that students were told Burke had gotten out of a coma and was eating since she had been diagnosed a week ago.

Letters were sent home with students Jan. 22 notifying them that a school official had contracted meningitis. Although Burke's name was not mentioned, word got around and students learned it was Burke who had the infection.

St. Francis Prep announced Burke's death on its Web site Friday.

"Please pray for the repose of the soul of Ms. LeeAnne Burke of the guidance department," the message said.

"It's truly a bad loss for Prep," said senior Chris Roshore.

"Everybody's shocked and depressed," said Ralph Monfort, a senior from Rosedale. "In first period, everybody was down."

City Health Department spokeswoman Sara Markt said via e-mail that the agency investigated the meningitis case.

"The Health Department looked into whether any close contacts, such as family members and close friends, may have been at risk and provided antibiotic treatment," she said.

Markt noted that bacterial meningitis is not spread through casual contact, such as sitting in a classroom or passing by the sufferer in the hallway.

Symptoms of the infection include fever, chills, stiff neck, headache, rash, and nausea or vomiting.

St. Francis Prep students said they were not concerned about contracting meningitis because the school informed them that meningitis is spread through contact with saliva.

Burke's wake was scheduled to be held Sunday and Monday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Dalton's Funeral Home in New Hyde Park.

No classes were scheduled for Tuesday, when Burke's funeral is to be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Malverne Bible Church in Malverne, L.I.

A student who had Burke as her guidance counselor called her "a wonderful lady."

"It's weird to see someone and then not see them," she said about Burke's death. "She was nice to everybody and she was always smiling."

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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