On Friday, a 19-year old woman was hospitalized with a presumptive diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. Public health officials confirmed Thursday that the diagnosis is meningococcal meningitis.
They continue to look for anyone who has had intimate contact with the affected individual, whose name is not being released, or members of her social network. The investigation has revealed this case is linked to the death of a 9-year-old Berkeley girl on May 1. The child died of meningococcal meningitis.
There is not a single, individual carrier of this bacterial strain, public health officials said. The spread of this bacteria is through multiple social contacts within a social network that engages in activities that allow for the spread of the bacteria.
People who have engaged in the following behaviors with an infected person are at risk of becoming infected themselves: unprotected sex including oral sex, sharing intravenous needles; using drugs such as crack cocaine that has been in another person’s mouth; sharing cigarettes, joints, drinks, or pipes; deep kissing; sharing food or drinks in a way that saliva is passed on.
The illness is characterized by a sudden high fever, headache and a stiff neck. Those symptoms are often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. A person with these symptoms, should contact a health-care provider or go to a hospital emergency room immediately.
Public health officials stress that meningococcal meningitis is hard to get. It requires the direct exchange of bodily fluids with an infected person. Medical experts strongly encourage community members to carefully assess their real risk of exposure before deciding to take medication because medicating unnecessarily sometimes leads to medical complications such as liver problems and, most importantly, antibiotic resistance. For more information, visit the Meningitis Information Sheet at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/news/generalInformation.pdf or call public health nurses who are available to answer community questions or concerns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, at 644-6500.