Norwin student's death not caused by meningitis, coroner says

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A 17-year-old Norwin High School student died Sunday in Excela Hospital in Greensburg from natural causes, with initial concerns about bacterial meningitis being ruled out.

Michael Sweeney was pronounced dead about 2:40 p.m. after falling ill at his North Hungtindon home before he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital.

Concerns that the boy's illness could be highly contagious and often deadly bacterial meningitis prompted medical officials to prescribe an antibiotic to family, ambulance and medical officials who came in contact with him.

"The theory initially was that it could be meningitis, but it was not meningitis after all. Everything appears to be natural. It was not a suicide and doesn't appear to be drugs," said Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha, who added that an initial autopsy was completed this morning. A final toxicology report won't be available for two weeks and a final autopsy report for six to eight weeks.

"Some symptoms were consistent with meningitis but could be consistent with other medical conditions," he said. "By 10 a.m. [today], we knew it was not meningitis."

Norwin High School Principal Timothy J. Kotch Sr. has sent a letter home to students' parents and guardians expressing "great sadness" over the death, while assuring them that the cause of death was not a communicable disease.

Mr. Kotch said the district will have Student Assistance Program teams, including counselors and psychologists, available today and throughout the week to speak with students "concerning normal responses to grief."

Students also will be permitted to attend Michael's funeral if they have written permission from their parents.

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David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578


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