Staff, students and parents at Knapp Elementary School in the North Penn School District are on the alert after a fourth-grade student recently was hospitalized with bacterial meningitis, officials said.

Parents of students in the Lansdale school were notified yesterday about the diagnosis and the steps taken by both the school district and the Montgomery County Health Department to identify others who might have had contact with the student, district spokeswoman Christine Liberaski said. "We are communicating as well as we can to alleviate fears and rumors," she said.

Health Department spokeswoman Harriet Morton said that while one in five people are carriers of the disease, it can be passed on only through close, personal contact. Health Department staff were at the school yesterday to see if anyone had shared a drink or eating utensils with the student, she said.

Common symptoms of bacterial meningitis include a stiff neck, high fever and headache, Morton said. The recommended treatment for anyone younger than 18 suspected of having contact with the student is an antibiotic drug, rifampin, she said.

- Nancy Petersen