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Soldier in Missouri dies from meningitis

ST. LOUIS – One soldier is dead of meningitis at Fort Leonard Wood and a second is “very seriously ill,” according to officials at the Army base in southern Missouri.

Fort Leonard Wood officials did not identify either infected soldier.

Meningitis, an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain, kills about 300 people in the U.S. each year.

Both cases at Fort Leonard Wood involved noncontagious forms of meningitis, authorities said. The two soldiers were members of the same unit, but no connection has been found between the cases.

“Although difficult to comprehend, all clinical data show these cases are unrelated and purely coincidental,” Lt. Col. John Lowery, deputy commander for clinical services at Fort Leonard Wood, said in a statement.

The first soldier died after being diagnosed on Feb. 5. The second soldier is a 28-year-old in basic training who was diagnosed Friday with a strep pneumonia infection leading to meningitis. The base said that soldier is “very seriously ill” but in stable condition at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

Authorities say that even though the illnesses were noncontagious forms, they are “heightening awareness” of preventive measures.