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Information About Meningococcal Disease

Advice from Steve Kairys, M.D. chairman of pediatrics at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ

The Freehold Township Board of Health confirmed on Monday, Jan. 7 that over the weekend a resident had died from bacterial meningitis. The following article was published on Jan. 22, 2011 after a 17-year-old Matawan Regional High School student died from bacterial meningities.

Steven Kairys, MD, MPH is the Chairman, Department of Pediatrics at 
K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital and Jersey Shore University Hospital, both in Neptune, NJ. He offered this information about the disease.

Meningococcal disease (Meningococcemia) causes 2,000 to 3,000 cases a year.

Meningococcus is a bacteria, and humans are its only reservoir.

It can live dormant in the nasal passages for long periods without causing disease, but can be transmitted to another person.

It occurs more frequently in young children, and there is also an increase in teens ages 15-19.

Three or four strains of the bacteria cause disease. It is acquired by the respiratory route and can invade the bloodstream quickly.

It causes septic shock, bruising ( purpura) due to clotting problems, and can cause meningitis.

Some people with overwhelming disease can have an underlying, often hidden,
problem with one of the body's internal immune mechanisms.

The disease initially mimics a viral illness with fever, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and perhaps headache. Muscle pain is also common. In a few cases, the
illness progresses over hours to include shock and the purpura (bruising ) 

Meningitis may or may not be present.  

Death from Meningococcemia is 10%.

Severe disease is the exception rather than the rule and even severe
disease, if picked up quickly, can be successfully treated.

Close contacts within 7 days of the illness are at increased risk for
infection and should be monitored and brought to medical attention if fever
develops.  

Household contacts  and other such close daily contacts may need
to placed on preventive antibiotics.

School or community members are at low risk for infection.

For example, sitting next to a student who becomes infected, or drinking from the same glass or mug, should not be cause for alarm.

However, students should certainly visit their doctor if fever develops within seven days of potential exposure.

The disease does not cause epidemics and there is no reason for such fears in a community.

Contact the County Health Department or your own physician with any specific questions or concerns.

A vaccine, MCV4, prevents the disease. It should be given to all children around age 11 to 12 as a part of their immunization schedule.

For older children and/or teens who may have been exposed, the vaccine does not prevent the illness because it takes weeks to build antibodies.

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