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Two probable cases of illness also identified

April 24, 2013 (San Diego) – A 22-year-old man died last week and a 47-year-old man is currently hospitalized from confirmed meningococcal disease, the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced. Two cases of probable meningococcal disease were also reported. The general public is not at risk for exposure from any of the cases reported.

“Meningococcal disease is not spread through casual contact,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The risk to persons who are not in close, direct contact with an infected individual is minimal.”

The previously healthy 22-year-old was admitted to a local hospital on April 9 and died the following day. The 47-year-old was hospitalized on April 14 and remains in critical condition at a local hospital. These cases are not related to each other. HHSA has identified all close contacts of the individuals and they have received preventive antibiotic treatment.

There have been five confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in the county in 2013 and this is the second reported death due to the bacteria this year.  HHSA is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Mexican public health officials to determine if these illnesses may be related to any of the cases of meningococcal disease identified in Tijuana this year.  Twenty cases of the bacterial disease have been confirmed in Baja California since January 4, including seven deaths. There are no changes in routine health recommendations for those who are travelling to Tijuana.

The first probable case is a 31-year-old previously healthy man who is recovering at a local hospital after being admitted on April 9 for fever, headache and rash.  The second is a 44-year-old previously healthy woman who is currently hospitalized after being admitted on April 9 for fever, confusion, and rash.  Both cases are considered probable because a case can only be confirmed when a specimen from the individual grows the bacteria in a laboratory culture, which cannot always be done. All close contacts of these two probable cases have been identified and provided preventive antibiotic treatment. These are the only probable cases that have been reported this year.

Since 2005, the number of confirmed cases of meningococcal disease in San Diego County has ranged from four to 14, with an average of nine cases per year.  There were eight confirmed cases and one probable case reported in 2012.

“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 of more than 3 million,” said Dr. Wooten.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider or emergency room for evaluation of possible meningococcal disease.

The bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes, or water bottles. It can also be spread by kissing, sharing cigarettes and living in close quarters. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days. Individuals who had close contact with a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent possible infection.

A vaccine is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease.  It is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age. Families are strongly encouraged to make sure their pre-teen and adolescent children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines, including the meningococcal vaccine. Some individuals may be at higher risk for meningococcal disease and should discuss vaccination with their healthcare providers.  To find out more information about this vaccine-preventable disease, please visit

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