9-year-old dies from meningitis

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Amber Strickland can't believe her son is gone. She says it all happened so fast.

"Even when they told me he was brain dead, I thought he was going to wake up and say 'Hi mommy.' That never happened," Amber said.

The State Health Department is trying to figure out which type of meningitis killed 9-year-old Christian Rands, and how he caught it.

"We don't have a lot of tests back yet that would tell us whether it was viral or bacterial or some other type of microorganism," Virginia Department of Health Epidemiologist Keri Hall said.

Christian's mom says he spent the week before his death at a fishing day camp on the James River, but Health Department officials say that doesn't mean much.

"Those parents don't need to worry about their kids having gotten the infection from this boy at this time," said Hall.

Meningitis can be spread, but it is not highly contagious. Early symptoms include severe headache and fever, sometimes with neck stiffness. The viral type usually goes away on its own, but the bacterial type can sometimes turn deadly.

"I just can't believe he's gone," Amber said.

Christian Rands was a healthy 9-year-old on a Monday, and by Friday he was gone.

"He was a larger-than-life personality. You'd meet him and you'd just know," said Amber. "He loved to just climb trees, he loved fishing."

Amber's advice to other parents - keep a close eye on your kids, and always let them know they are loved.

"I just don't want anybody else to have to pick out a coffin for their baby," she said.

Christian would have been a third grader this year at Glen Allen Elementary. The State Health Department investigation could take weeks to complete. Virginia reports about 40 meningitis cases each year-- only a handful are fatal.

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