March 27, 2003
HEALTH DEPARTMENT CONTACTING SCHOOL, PARENTS
AND PHYSICIANS ABOUT MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE
Charlotte, NC - The Mecklenburg County Health Department is distributing letters to students at Myers Park High School and area health care professionals after a student from that school died Wednesday of what doctors say is meningococcal disease.
Letters containing the information below will be hand-delivered to students and staff through the Health Department's school health nurse. Physicians and health care providers are being notified via broadcast fax.
Those who came in close contact with this student are being advised to see their doctor to be prescribed a preventive antibiotic treatment that eliminates bacteria from the nose and throat if present. The bacteria are not as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu and are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. Classroom contact is considered a low risk.
The bacteria is spread through close or direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat, through kissing, coughing, or sharing cigarettes, food and drinks. To minimize the spread of this infection, avoid sharing drinks and other close, personal contact and wash your hands frequently.
Because of the close contact between students in most college dormitory settings, entering college freshmen are required to get a meningitis vaccination. This vaccination is available through the Mecklenburg County Health Department for $65 before the start of school.
The bacteria that cause this infection are found in the nose and throat of 5-10% of the population.
Diseases caused by this infection include pneumonia, meningitis, blood infection, and arthritis. After exposure, symptoms are seen within 2-10 days, but most commonly between 3-4 days. Symptoms may include one or more of the following: sudden onset of illness, fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, and a skin rash.
Students or other close contacts who are ill with the symptoms listed above should contact a doctor immediately or the Mecklenburg County Health Department's Communicable Disease Control Program at 704-336-5498 or 704-336-5398.