March 7, 2005
When bacterial meningitis is the suspected cause of an illness
or death, health officials move quickly to stop the potential
spread of the disease -- and the fear associated with it.
- City health officials believe a 6-year-old boy probably died
from bacterial meningitis, and they moved Wednesday to calm jittery
parents of his
classmates. ... He died Friday and District of Columbia Department
of Health officials were notified of the death Saturday. 'We immediately
contacted the family to begin our investigation,' said Interim
Deputy Health Director Dr. Karyn Berry. ... His family members
are receiving antibiotics as a precaution. But health officials
stressed that it was unlikely any classmates are at risk. ...
Although a final confirmation of bacterial meningitis has not
been made, officials are working under the suspicion that that's
what it was."
Not all bacterial meningitis
cases end in death, but it is an illness that needs to be taken
1, 2005 ...
A Summerville High School student has been diagnosed with bacterial
meningitis -- the fourth case in Tuolumne County since Dec. 3.
The student, diagnosed Saturday, is
recovering, health officials said. 'She was quite ill for a while,'
said Kathy Amos of the Tuolumne County Health Department, 'but
she's recovering and doing fine now.' Health officials can't identify
the student because of confidentiality laws, Amos said, but she
urges everyone to be on the alert for symptoms. Symptoms are fever,
headache, stiff neck and/or a purple rash that looks like dots
from an ink pen. Amos said family members and close contacts of
the student have already received antibiotics to prevent spread
of the disease. It is transmitted by direct contact with an actively
infected person -- such as intimate household contacts, sharing
food, drinks or cigarettes, or prolonged close proximity."
Why would you share a
drink or a bite of food with someone who is obviously sick? Unless
you are dating or living in the same room with the person (such
as a dorm or roommate situation) wouldn't this be a fairly difficult
disease to catch? Even if you catch the bacteria, you may not
"Many people may
carry the bacteria in their noses and throats, and they will not
become ill -they are healthy carriers. These carriers can spread
the germ to other
Even if you are not sick,
you may carry the bacteria.
is a rare but life threatening illness, caused by the bacterium
(germ), Neisseria meningitidis. It is the leading cause
of bacterial meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal
cord coverings) in children 2-18 years old in the United States.
The most severe form of the disease is meningococcemia, infection
of the bloodstream by this bacterium. It also causes serious infections
of other normally sterile body sites (e.g., joints). These Infections
may lead to death."
So, when someone is actually
diagnosed with meningitis, what does that mean?
"Meningitis is an
infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid
that surrounds the brain. People sometimes refer to it as spinal
meningitis. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial
infection. ... [B]acterial meningitis can be quite severe and
may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability.
... Appropriate antibiotic treatment of most common types of bacterial
meningitis should reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to
below 15%, although the risk is higher among the elderly."
can be fatal, but early treatment is the key to survival.
Public Health Officer Dr. Todd Stolp stressed that early medical
treatment is effective, and antibiotics can protect people who
have been in close
contact with an infected person. He said people need to be aware
of the symptoms and seek immediate medical help if they get them."
In the past, some have
recommended that high risk individuals be vaccinated. Others have
1, 2000, Maryland law requires that an individual enrolled in
an institution of higher education in Maryland who resides in
on-campus student housing must be vaccinated against meningococcal
Living in a small, enclosed
environment; sharing food and drink; not getting enough sleep:
college life is a recipe of risk factors. With some schools (even
some states) asking students to get vaccinated, it was never public
policy to recommend the vaccine to all those entering college.
Times have changed, and it is not just college students who will
11, 2005 6:42 AM) _ A government panel has recommended that all
college freshmen who live in dorms receive a new meningitis vaccine
that lasts years longer than the old one and prevents people from
being carriers of the bacteria. The recommendation Thursday was
an about-face from previous policy and was prompted largely by
a new vaccine, Menactra, made by Sanofi Pasteur. ... The panel
also is advising doctors to give the shot to all 11- to 12-year-old
children and that it be provided to at least 4 million children
eligible under the federal children's vaccines program. ... Because
each dose is expected to cost about $100 and only 3,000 cases
of meningococcal meningitis are reported each year, 'it won't
save money,' said Mark Messonier, an economist with the CDC who
helped develop a cost effectiveness study of the plan. 'It is
a strategy that will save lives,' he said."
This is a deadly disease,
but one that affects a small percentage of the population. Each
year, roughly 3,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis are reported.
Researchers, economists, doctors, patients, and parents of patients.
are all involved. Researchers have found a better vaccine; economists
have decided that the lives saved are worth the enormous price
tag; doctors with offer (even recommend) the vaccine. The government
is getting involved to recommend the vaccine; the insurance companies
will likely be asked to help with the costs.
What will the patients,
and the parents of patients decide to do?
Questions of the Week:
With the information you now have, why do you think your peers
would (or would not) want the vaccine? Why do you think parents
would (or would not) support this vaccine for their children?
What else would you like to know about meningitis? Do you think
your parents and peers need to know more about the disease? How
should the schools get involved? For what reasons would schools
require the students to get vaccinated for meningitis before they
are allowed to begin the school year? For what reasons would schools
not require (but possibly recommend) the vaccine? Who should be
asked to pay for millions of doses offered at about $100 each?
Where will that money come from?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum