February 29, 1996 in Nation/World

Meningitis Outbreak Causes Alarm Washington Man Dead; Two Idahoans In Critical Condition

Rich Roesler Eric Sorensen Contribute Staff writer
 

A Washington man is dead and two Idahoans are hospitalized in critical condition as a result of an outbreak of meningitis in the Inland Northwest.

“I hope to God we’ve got it beat,” said Alice Vollbrecht, an epidemiologist at the North Central District Health Department in Lewiston.

Five people have contracted meningitis in the Lewiston region since December. All have been hospitalized, and antibiotics have been given to several hundred people who lived or worked closely with the victims, Vollbrecht said.

Meningitis killed an Okanogan, Wash., resident about a week ago, said Dr. John Kobayashi of the Washington Department of Health.

In Idaho, the two critical cases are a 19-year-old Moscow woman and a 15-year-old Weippe boy. Both are hospitalized in Spokane. The boy, Vollbrecht said, is in extremely critical condition.

The strange thing about this outbreak, she said, is that health officials have been unable to find any links between the victims, who range from an infant to a 30-year-old.

The bacteria that causes meningitis actually is fairly common. Many healthy people carry it in their nose and throat. It is unclear why the bacteria infects the bloodstream of some people and not others.

The infection is particularly dangerous for very young or old people, or people whose immune systems are weakened. Anyone who suspects they or their child has the illness should see a physician immediately.

Five cases of meningitis were diagnosed in Idaho’s five northern counties between October and December of last year. Two were students at Betty Keifer Elementary School, and health officials gave antibiotics to hundreds of students there.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ABOUT MENINGITIS Children and young adults are particularly susceptible to meningococcal infections, which are caused by a bacteria. The symptoms are a fever of 102 degrees or higher, and any of the following: severe headache, stiff neck and back, difficulty breathing, painful joints, bluish-purple bruises, or a pinpoint rash. Symptoms can progress in less than a day from a mild illness to a life-threatening situation. The bacteria is carried in the nose and throat, and the infection typically is spread to other people by droplets from the nose and throat. It also can be spread by sharing eating utensils, towels or personal belongings, or when people share sleeping quarters. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are essential. People who have had direct contact with an infected person should receive antibiotics. Source: The Washington Department of Health.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Rich Roesler Staff writer Staff writer Eric Sorensen contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ABOUT MENINGITIS Children and young adults are particularly susceptible to meningococcal infections, which are caused by a bacteria. The symptoms are a fever of 102 degrees or higher, and any of the following: severe headache, stiff neck and back, difficulty breathing, painful joints, bluish-purple bruises, or a pinpoint rash. Symptoms can progress in less than a day from a mild illness to a life-threatening situation. The bacteria is carried in the nose and throat, and the infection typically is spread to other people by droplets from the nose and throat. It also can be spread by sharing eating utensils, towels or personal belongings, or when people share sleeping quarters. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are essential. People who have had direct contact with an infected person should receive antibiotics. Source: The Washington Department of Health.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Rich Roesler Staff writer Staff writer Eric Sorensen contributed to this report.


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