The illness that killed a 12-year-old Rockland County girl over the weekend has been confirmed as bacterial meningitis, officials said Monday.
Authorities say 33 people who had close contact with sixth-grader Chrissy Gabriel, including family members and elementary school students and staff, are being told to take antibiotics against the contagious disease.
There is a small window to identify and treat other possible cases, doctors say.
"Time is of the essence," said Dr. Anil Vaidian, of the county health department.
Officials say Gabriel had symptoms of conjunctivitis on Wednesday and was prescribed eye drops by her pediatrician, officials said.
She then felt ill Friday night, and died Saturday.
"My wife said,' Chrissy, Chrissy.' And she didn't answer," said Kessler Gabriel, the girl's father. "And then my wife checked her pulse. No sign."
"Chrissy wasn't sick. And then she passed away like that," he said.
Gabriel never exhibited the classic symptoms of meningitis, which include a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck, along with nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and a confused mental state, according to Vaidian.
Parents of other children at her school, St. Gregory Barbarigo in Garnerville, were notified of the death through an alert system, officials said.
Classes were in session Monday through Wednesday of last week, and off Thursday and Friday for the religious holiday. There is no school this week.
Health officials say the seven-day period of contagious exposure ended Friday. Those who had casual contact with Gabriel should not be concerned. Only close contact like kissing and sharing drinks or silverware is considered risky.
Rev. Joseph LaMorte at the St. Gregory Barbarigo School said Gabriel was a good student who was well-adjusted and related well with her peers.
"That's my lovely daughter. That's my lovely daughter," said Kessler Gabriel.
-- Tracie Strahan and Brynn Gingras contributed to this report.