South Jersey Woman Diagnosed With Meningococcal Disease

The woman is recovering and her household contacts have been treated.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
A Camden woman who tested positive for meningococcal disease is recovering and her household contacts have been treated, the Camden County Health Department and the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday afternoon.

“Meningococcal disease is not spread by casual contact or handling items that the person has touched,” Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Camden County Health Department, said. “The individual’s family members and others she has come in close contact with have been notified and have been seen by a doctor.”

Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Cherry Hill contacted Communicable Disease Unit on Monday concerning the woman, who had been hospitalized since Feb. 28.

She tested for Neisseria meningitidis, and her disease became meningococcal.

Meningococcemia caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis is an immediately reportable disease. It is a severe infection of the blood or the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord).

When the infection is in the blood, it is called meningococcemia. When the infection is in the meninges, it is called meningococcal meningitis.

Both are caused by Neisseria meningitidis, a bacteria carried by about 5-20 percent of the population. It is typically carried in the nose and throat, and most people don't get sick as a result.

However, in rare cases the bacteria may get into the blood or the tissue surrounding the spine and brain and cause severe illness.

It is most common in infants and young children, and people above the age of 65. College students and military recruits are also slightly more at risk for the disease because of time spent in crowded living conditions, such as dorms or barracks.

The disease is most commonly spread between people who live in the same household or sleep in the same dwelling; kiss; or share eating utensils, food, drinks or cigarettes.

It is also spread by uncovered face-to-face sneezing or coughing, and the infectious period is anywhere between 10 days before the person gets sick to one day after the person begins taking antibiotics.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Feeling very tired or sleepy
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light
  • A rash appearing as purple blotches or spots on the arms, legs or torso
Most people with meningococcal invasive disease are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Because the illness can impair body function, ventilator assistance, kidney dialysis or other supportive treatments may be needed.

Two types of meningococcal vaccine are available:
  • Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4) has been available since 1978.
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) became available in 2005.

Both vaccines are about 90% effective in protecting against four strains of meningococcal disease, including all but one of the most common strains found in the United States. MCV4 is currently preferred because it provides longer lasting immunity.

The Health Department recommends two doses of MCV4 for adolescents, ages 11-18. The first should take place at the age of 11 or 12 years old, followed by a booster shot at 16.

Vaccination is also recommended for persons who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease. These include:

  • Incoming college freshmen or military recruits who will live in dormitories or barracks.
  • Anyone with an immune system disorder.
  • Anyone with a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed.
  • Certain groups of people during a meningococcal outbreak.
For the full list of persons recommended by the CDC for meningococcal vaccination, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/who-vaccinate.htm

According to the Health Department, the vaccines are safe and effective, but there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site or a mild fever, which typically last for 1 to 2 days. Severe side effects, such as a serious allergic reaction, are very rare.


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