Two local cases of bacterial meningitis confirmed

meningitis outbreakSAN DIEGO — An investigation was underway Thursday into two confirmed and two probable cases of meningococcal disease in San Diego County, including one that led to a death and another that left a man hospitalized in critical condition.

The general public is not at risk for exposure, according to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.

“Meningococcal disease is not spread through casual contact,”  said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “The risk to persons who are not in close, direct contact with an infected individual is minimal.”

A 22-year-old man died recently and a 47-year-old man was hospitalized in critical condition with the disease, the HHSA announced Wednesday.   The previously healthy 22-year-old man was hospitalized April 9 and died the next day. His was the second reported death from the bacteria this year, according to county health officials, who said the case was not directly related to the case of the 47-year-old man in critical condition.

Health officials said they identified people who had close contact with the two men who contracted the disease, and they were treated with antibiotics.   The HHSA was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Public Health and Mexican public health officials to determine if any of the local confirmed cases of meningococcal disease were related to an outbreak of 20 cases since Jan. 4 in Baja California, where seven deaths have been reported.    The HHSA suspects a 31-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman hospitalized April 9 had the disease but said presence of the bacteria could only be confirmed if a specimen from the patient grows in a laboratory culture, which cannot always be done.

“Although four unrelated cases being reported during the same week may be concerning, the number of cases so far this year is what we would expect from a county with a population with more than 3 million,” Wooten said.

Since 2005, the number of local cases has ranged from four to 14, with an average of eight, according to the HHSA. Eight confirmed cases and one probable case were reported last year.    The bacteria is spread through contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or water bottles. It also can be spread by kissing and living in close quarters. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two and 10 days.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and a rash that does not blanch under pressure.    County health officials said people who had close contact with an infected individual should receive preventative antibiotics.    A vaccine to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age.