Public health officials investigate severe infection that claimed Central Catholic student

March 19, 2014

Dr. Paul Lewis speaks to reporters on March 4, 21014.
Public health officials in Multnomah and Clackamas counties are investigating the sudden illness that claimed a 17-year-old high school student in the Portland area on March 4, 2014.

Dr. Paul Lewis, Health Officer for the two counties, said that Jacob Parkhurst, 17, died Tuesday evening, probably of severe invasive bacterial infection.

Parkhurst died at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland just a few days after becoming ill.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the Parkhurst family and the entire community of people who knew Jake,’’ Dr. Lewis said.

County officials have contacted the Oregon Health Authority and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if there are additional tests that can be done. Among the suspected causes of such a severe infection are meningococcal disease (caused by Neiseria meningiditis), Streptococcus pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

On Tuesday, public health officials and Central Catholic High, Parkhurst’s school, sent a letter to families to alert them to the illness. About a dozen of Parkhurst’s family members and close friends received preventative antibiotics.

Dr. Lewis said Wednesday that there have been no other reports to date of other illnesses in connection with the case.

The Parkhurst family released this public statement to the Multnomah County Health Department on Wednesday.

Our son was admitted to the Legacy Emmanuel Randall Children’s Hospital with suspected meningococcal disease. He passed away on March 4th.

His family is heartbroken and misses him terribly.  We thank his friends, Central Catholic High School, our community, and the staff at Randall Children’s Hospital for their support.  We thank you for respecting our privacy.

While the cause is still under investigation, health officials encourage the public to do three things to minimize the chance of infections in general:

  •  Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • Get all immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. There is no better way to prevent unnecessary illness.
  • Don’t smoke and if you do, don’t expose others. For current smokers, call the Oregon Quit Line 1.800.QUIT.NOW (1.800.784.8669)

Anyone concerned about current symptoms of illness should contact their health provider.