A person must have direct contact with an infected person’s saliva during the 7 days prior to the onset of illness in order to become infected. The disease is not spread through casual contact or by simply being in the same room as an infected person.
This disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis generally affects people in two ways:
meningitis (an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and or spinal cord) or
bloodstream infection (that usually leads to bleeding under the skin)
These include, but are not limited to a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and sometimes a rash. Newborns and small infants may also vomit, and be tired or very fussy. If any of these signs or symptoms should develop, the person should be taken immediately to a physician or emergency room to be evaluated for possible meningococcal disease.
Close contact means:
- household members
- persons who frequently eat or sleep in the same house
- persons who spent 4-6 hours per day together
- persons who have come in contact with salvia of the infected person by kissing, sharing eating and drinking utensils
For all other persons, including those who had casual contact as would occur in most school, social, or church activities, the risk of infection is very low. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for casual contacts of infected persons.
There are two vaccines that protect against most types of this disease. A dose of meningococcal vaccine is recommended for children and adolescents 11 through 18 years of age. Meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for other people at increased risk for meningococcal disease such as:
- College freshmen living in dormitories
- U. S. military recruits
- Travelers to countries where meningococcal disease is common, such as parts of Africa
- Anyone with a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed
- Persons with certain medical conditions that affect their immune system (check with your physician)
To reduce the spread and risk of any communicable disease, it is recommended that individuals avoid sharing foods, drinks, lipstick/balm, cigarettes or other media on which there is contact with another person’s saliva.
For more information you can visit the ISDH Quick Facts site at: http://www.in.gov/isdh/22121.htm. Or the CDC Meningitis (Meningococcal Disease) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.htm. If you have questions please call the Kosciusko County Health Department at 574-372-2349.