Gilchrist toddler has meningitis


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 1:19 a.m.
TRENTON - A 14-month-old Gilchrist County girl has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, the bacterial disease which infects the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and the brain.
An administrator with the county's public health department said the disease was confirmed this week as the infectious form of bacterial meningitis.
"This is a serious disease, but fortunately the bacteria that causes this form of meningitis is not spread by casual contact," Sable Bolling said. "It is spread by close contact."
Bolling defined close contact as kissing, sharing eating or drinking utensils, coughing or sneezing directly into someone's face, or in other ways in which saliva or respiratory droplets are passed from one person to another.
"We want to let people know about this case not to alarm anyone, but to make people and their health care providers aware of it," Bolling said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis is caused by viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis is the less-severe form of the disease, while bacterial meningitis can cause permanent damage such as loss of hearing or brain damage. In some cases, it can be fatal.
Local, state and federal officials urged anyone with symptoms of meningitis to contact their local health department or medical care provider because the sooner the disease is diagnosed, the less likely it is to cause permanent problems.
Bolling said symptoms of meningitis can become apparent in a few hours or during a one- to two-day period. Common symptoms in anyone older than age 2 include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness. Symptoms in those under age 2 include slowness or inactivity, crankiness, vomiting or poor appetite.
"Seeing cases like this is common at this time of year," said Jackie DiPietry, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health. "There is always a concern this could be fatal, so anytime a case is reported we do a routine epidemiological investigation."
The investigation includes screening those who may have been in close contact with the patient as long as 10 days before the disease was diagnosed. When health officials determine someone was in close enough contact to have contracted meningitis, a preventative dose of antibiotic is given at the state's expense.
In the Gilchrist County case, Bolling said 26 people already have been identified as being at risk for developing the disease and have been given antibiotics.
DiPietry also said local health departments and the state department will notify private health care providers in an area where meningitis has been reported.
"We want to be able to identify, diagnose and treat anyone who may have been exposed to prevent an outbreak," she said.
According to the CDC, when left untreated, meningitis has led to epidemics in some African nations where as many as 15 percent of those who contracted the disease died.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

FYI: Symptoms

People with the following symptoms are urged to contact their health-care provider to be screened for meningococcal meningitis. People may also call the Gilchrist County Health Department at (352) 463-3120.
Symptoms over age 2: High fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness.
Symptoms in those under age 2: Slowness or inactivity, crankiness, vomiting or poor appetite.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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