Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Second Santa Monica High School Student Dies of a "Undetermined Medical Condition" in 4 months

LA County Dept of Public Health Investigates Kelly Cano's death, as an LAUSD Teacher dies of Bacterial meningitis


February 14, 2017

SamoHi's Barnum Hall Auditorium. All extracurricular activities districtwide have been cancelled, due to public health concerns.

Update: Our original article was removed out of respect for the family and anyone who might be offended. To those who knew either of the deceased, our condolences for your loss. This story presents an important public health issue, and we stand for the public's right to know more about it. Consider that before our article, the LA County Dept. of Public Health was not looking into either death, and now, because of your reactions, they are.-Editor

A santa monica high school student has died of an unknown illness for the second time since October.

Santa Monica-Malibu School District officials issued a statement Sunday announcing the death of 18-year-old Kelly Cano, whose mother Sandra, a nurse at santa monica high school, quoted doctors as saying the deadly condition is not believed to have been Norovirus. However, this is not what her mother says, according to the LA Times.

Sandra Cano, Kelly's mother, who is a school nurse at Santa Monica public schools, said her daughter fell ill last week over two to three days. She was nauseous and vomiting, but it seemed like a cold or flu. Then on Saturday morning, Kelly stopped breathing. She was taken to the hospital, where she died despite exhaustive resuscitation efforts, says the LA Times quoting Cano.

Cano said that doctors could not rule out norovirus as the cause of her daughter's death, but that it could take up to six months for toxicology reports to come back with a definitive answer. She said she plans to return to her job at the school, when she is ready.

In a Robo Call to Parents Tuesday morning, SamoHi Principal Antonio Shelton confirmed that the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health was investigating Cano's death. He urged parents not to keep their children home (confirming indirectly, that some are doing just that). Shelton also said that due to privacy considerations, he could not release more information at this time. Some legal experts say that when a person dies, their right to privacy dies along with them. Others question exactly where California privacy law stands on this point.

The District continues to deny publicly any connection between the outbreak at JAMS, and the two deaths. This reporter was the first to draw what seems like the obvious connection, and has been threatened on social media for doing so.

Classmates took to social media to express shock and grief over Cano's death and held an impromptu memorial Sunday night, according to reports.

Her death was the second since Oct. 25, 2016, when tenth-grader Vanai Jelks died after falling ill following a cheerleading tournament. This is what Vanai's stepfather told the Observer in October; others say she played basketball and was not a cheerleader. Her cause of death has not been made public. Jelks' mother was also a health care worker. According to her stepfather, Vanai was healthy, she fell ill with what seemed to be a cold or flu, so she was not taken to a hospital. She died 2 or 3 days later at home.

The news followed shortly after the Feb. 3 closing of John Adams Middle School due to an outbreak of an uncertain illness suspected of having been norovirus, which occurred during a school trip to Yosemite.

JAMS was cleaned over the weekend and reopened on February 6th. The District has, on the advice of the LACDPH, cancelled all extracurricular activities district wide due to health concerns.

LACDPH may be looking into the possibility of a connection or common vector in the deaths of Cano and Jelks. This is mostly due to demands from parents that they do so--SMMUSD originally denied that there was any public health problem at santa monica high school, and publicly still maintains that both deaths are tragic, but isolated incidents.

Separately, LAUSD says that a third-grade teacher at Montara Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District died Saturday from bacterial meningitis.

LAUSD identified the teacher as Ramona Gedney. The Los Angeles County Public Health Dept. is investigating her death.

Bacterial meningitis is contagious, though less so than influenza or the common cold. It can be transmitted through droplets of respiratory secretions during close contact such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, but cannot be spread by only breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been present.

A 2014 photo of Ramona Gedney, who died Monday after taking ill with bacterial meningitis.She taught 3d grade at LAUSD's South Gate Elementary School.

South Gate Elementary School parents demanded and received a meeting from school officials to find out why they had not been told Gedney was ill with a contagious, and potentially deadly bacterial infection.

In contrast, the Santa Monica public has been told nothing about either student death, even though the Coroner's office has been investigating Jelks' death for over 100 days. The silence from officials is deafening.

Update 3, 1 pm PST Wednesday: SMMUSD Spokeswoman Gail Pinsker takes issue with several factual assertions in this article, and blames us for spreading "misinformation" on public health at Santa Monica public schools.

Update 2: The LA Times reports that Kelly Cano's mother says doctors have not ruled out Norovirus as a cause of Kelly's death.


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