Case of bacterial meningitis reported

Winnebago County Health Department was notified on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, of a probable case of bacterial meningitis, in a child who is currently hospitalized. The Health Department immediately began an investigation and case contact follow-up. All immediate household members have received treatment as have other close contacts, and are being followed closely by Health Department Disease Control staff. Monday afternoon, the department was notified by the hospital laboratory that the specimen culture was positive for Neisseria meningitides, thus confirming the probable diagnosis.

Janice Braswell, R.N., Communicable Disease Supervisor for the Winnebago County Health Department, states: “Fortunately, the child is gradually improving with the intensive care provided by our hospital providers. Late Monday afternoon, the child was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit and upgraded to the General Pediatric Ward.”

Neisseria meningitides is typically a disease of children with incidence declining with increasing age. Most cases occur sporadically as this one did and as did the one case in a child this past summer. Illinois typically sees 70 to 120 cases per year and nationally 2,200 to 3,000 cases per year. Up to 10 percent of all meningococcal disease cases are fatal. Meningococcal disease can be present in one of two forms—meningococcal meningitis, the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (which this child has), or meningococcemia, a blood infection.

Once a case has been identified, treatment of close contacts is the primary means for preventing the spread of this disease. Although not highly contagious, meningococcal infection can be spread person to person by direct contact through nose and throat secretions. An infected person can transmit the disease by coughing or sneezing directly in the face of others, kissing, or sharing eating utensils, but NOT by casual contact such as sitting in the same room or passing in the hallway. Symptoms usually include a sudden onset of fever and headache and stiff neck with a red rash occurring later. Nausea and vomiting can occur but alone are not signs of the disease.

Case-contacts are treated with antibacterial agents such as Ciprofloxin and Rifampin, to prevent disease. Typically 5 to 10 percent of the general population can carry the bacteria in the nose and throat, yet not develop symptoms. Thus, healthy people as well as people who are ill may spread the bacteria to others. The risk of transmission of the bacteria and other disease organisms can be reduced by practicing good hygiene such as covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, discarding used tissues quickly and washing hands thoroughly after exposure to respiratory secretions. For more information regarding meningitis, log on to

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