Bacterial Meningitis Outbreak in Oklahoma Claims Two Lives
The Rogers County Health Department and the Oklahoma State Department of Health are investigating an outbreak of six possible cases of bacterial meningitis in a rural Oklahoma elementary school. Two of the students have died, including an 8 year old.
CNN affiliate KOTV reports that a medical team at Oologah Lower Elementary School, in the Oologah-Talala public school district about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa, are screening more than 100 people, including faculty, and providing antibiotics to about 1,000 to prevent the spread of meningococcal disease. The entire district is closed on Friday, March 12.
Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the thin membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. It can either be caused by a virus or, in this case, bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. Symptoms, including high fever, headache and stiff neck, can appear two to 10 days after infection, most often within three to four days.
Anyone can get bacterial meningitis, but it is most common in infants and children. In the United States, it is relatively rare and usually occurs in isolated cases. Clusters, such as the one in Oklahoma, are very uncommon.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious, spreading through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions – for example coughing and sneezing. Neisseria miningitidis, sometimes called meningococcal meningitis, is thought to be more highly contagious, spreading among people in close or prolonged contact.
Viral meningitis is generally less severe and can clear without specific treatment. Bacterial meningitis, however, is quite severe, resulting in brain damage, learning disabilities, hearing loss, or coma and death. If caught early, bacterial meningitis can be treated by antibiotics.
Although a vaccine is routinely given to children to prevent one type of bacterial meningitis from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), vaccines for Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcal pneumonia are ineffective. New vaccines are under development.
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