A 52-year-old Boise secretary died Thursday of the same bacterial infection that attacked four schoolchildren early this month.

Public-health officials also said a sixth victim - a seventh-grade boy - was in good condition Thursday in the intensive-care unit at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center.The boy and the woman, who were not identified but are not related, are victims of a Boise-area outbreak of neisseria meningitidis, an unusual infection that is very difficult to get but kills 1 in 10 people infected.

During all of 1992, only eight cases of the bacterial infection were reported statewide. The infection can cause meningitis, a swelling of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and septicemia. Symptoms include fever, chills, stiff neck, intense headache, vomiting and nausea.

To keep the outbreak in check, the Central District Health Department urged 4,000 to 5,000 people - students, staff and their families at two Meridian schools - to get free vaccinations next week.

The secretary's case is the only one of the six recent cases that public-health officials have been unable to connect to students at Lake Hazel Elementary School and Lake Hazel Middle School, south of Boise.

The other victims were students at those two schools.

It was uncertain how the woman, who lived and worked in west Boise, contracted the illness. She was hospitalized several days ago with what doctors first diagnosed as pneumonia, said Kathy Holley, the Central District Health Department's director of nursing.

She died of a blood infection - septicemia - caused by the bacteria.

"We're treating her as an isolated case," Holley said. Everyone who had close contact with her is being treated with antibiotics to ward off the illness.

To ward off more cases connected to the schools, the Health Department on Thursday recommended vaccinations. The state Department of Health and Welfare will pick up the tab - about $150,000, not counting labor costs.

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"The rationale is that this is a little outbreak in our community, and if we can attack it vigorously, then we can eradicate it," Holley said. "We don't want any (more) deaths."

Most area residents have little to fear, Holley said.

"The general public needs to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis, but it's not a cause for alarm," she said.

All four victims stricken early in December are expected to fully recover.

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