The Ubon Ratchathani Thailand public health office has located 158 people who have in close contact with a 63-year-old company chauffeur before he died of meningococcal meningitis.Officials said the 158 people have been given medicine against the bacterial disease and will be under close watch by the Ubon Ratchathani disease control office.
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A common outcome of meningococcal infection is meningitis. When caused by Neisseria meningitidisbacteria it is known as meningococcal meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, become infected and swell. The symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often additional symptoms, such as
- Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
- Altered mental status (confusion)
The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure.
In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. In young children, doctors may also look at the child’s reflexes, which can also be a sign of meningitis.
If you think you or your infant or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.
Meningococcal meningitis is very serious and can be fatal. In fatal cases, deaths can occur in as little as a few hours. In non-fatal cases, permanent disabilities can include hearing loss and brain damage.
Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus. About 10% of people have this type of bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease, called being ‘a carrier’. But sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria can invade the body causing certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease.
Neisseria meningitidis bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.
Sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria spread to people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions, meaning saliva or spit, (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection.
People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis). The health department investigates each case of meningococcal disease to make sure all close contacts are identified and receive prophylaxis. This does not mean that the contacts have the disease; it is to prevent it
Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If meningococcal disease is suspected, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid near the spinal cord; see image below) are collected and sent to the laboratory for testing. It is important to know if it is meningococcal disease because the severity of illness and the treatment will change depending on the cause. In the case of meningococcal disease, antibiotics can help prevent severe illness and reduce the chances a close contact will also develop disease.
Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible. If meningococcal disease is suspected, antibiotics are given right away. Antibiotic treatment should reduce the risk of dying, but sometimes the infection has caused too much damage to the body for antibiotics to prevent death or serious long-term problems. Even with antibiotic treatment, people die in about 10-15% of cases. About 11-19% of survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as loss of limb(s), deafness, nervous system problems, or brain damage.
Depending on how serious the infection is, other treatments may also be necessary. These can include such things as breathing support, medications to treat low blood pressure, and wound care for parts of the body with damaged skin.
Lumbar puncture to collect sample of cerebrospinal fluid
Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease.Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help.
There is a vaccine for the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. However, available vaccines do not cover all serogroups (“strains”) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. Like with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means that even if you have been vaccinated, there is still a chance you can develop a meningococcal infection. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal septicemia since early recognition and quick medical attention are extremely important.
Learn more about who should get this vaccine.
Sometimes Neisseria meningitidis bacteria spread to other people who have had close or lengthy contact with a patient with meningococcal disease. People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions (saliva) (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis.
If your doctor confirms that you have meningococcal disease, your body will develop a natural defense (immunity) to some similar types of future infections. However, like with the vaccine, this protection does not last a lifetime and is not perfect. Therefore, routine meningococcal vaccines are still recommended. If you get meningococcal disease twice, it is highly possible that you have an underlying immune deficiency, which your doctor should evaluate.