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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 19, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael
609-984-7160


 
DHSS Continues to Monitor Meningococcal Disease Case


 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services continues to respond to the situation surrounding the case of bacterial meningitis that resulted in the death of a five-year old child on Sunday, July 18.

The Departmentís Communicable Disease Service has been working with both county and local heath departments to advise families whose children may have had contact with the patient. These families along with camp employees who may have had close contact with the child were notified of the illness and were told to contact their health care providers immediately to be evaluated regarding the need for preventive antibiotics.

To date, no other cases of meningococcal disease have been found.

Approximately 520 individuals were seen by hospitals in Essex, Union and Morris Counties from July 18 -19.The patients were evaluated and 480 were administered preventive antibiotics. DHSS was advised by local health authorities that all parties who were at higher risk have been evaluated by medical professionals.

The five-year old child presented at St. Barnabas Medical Center Emergency Room in Livingston on Saturday and died the following day. Tests confirmed that the child died from meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection.

The child was a camper at the Jefferson Lakes Country Day Camp in Byram Township (Sussex County). The camp was open today and local health officials are on site at the camp to answer questions from families and staff and to monitor the situation. The Sussex county health department distributed a letter to all campersí families today informing them of the case of meningitis along with health education information about the disease.

The New Jersey DHSS activated a toll-free telephone hotline on Sunday evening to provide information to the general public about meningococcal meningitis.

As of Monday afternoon, the DHSS hotline has received approximately 370 calls from parents, neighbors and medical professionals. The hotline will remain open during business hours. The number is 1-866-234-0964.

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria and is spread by prolonged, close contact with someone who has the illness.

Meningococcal bacteria can be found in the nose and throat of up to 25 percent of healthy individuals at any given time. Normally, the bacterium does not cause illness. In a very small number of individuals, the bacteria become invasive, and cause an infection.

The bacteria are spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing cups, bottles, or†eating utensils with the ill person. Even after exposure to the bacteria, it is very unusual to get infected. Typically, after infection it takes 2-10 days before symptoms appear.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and a rash. These symptoms need immediate medical attention. Diagnosis can be made by laboratory tests of blood or spinal fluid.

Early treatment is important. After exposure to the bacteria, infection can be prevented by antibiotics.††††††††††††††††

In 2003, 29 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in New Jersey. This year, 20 cases have been reported, including six deaths.

For general information on meningococcal disease, visit the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website at www.state.nj.us/health.

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