KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. -- An adult female was hospitalized on Sunday with bacterial meningitis. The Kittitas County Public Health Department has identified and contacted individuals who may have been exposed.
Bacterial meningitis is usually severe and can cause serious complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, or death. There are over 4,000 cases of bacterial meningitis each year in the United States, including about 500 deaths.
Bacterial meningitis can be a contagious disease spread through the exchange of respiratory or throat secretions (e.g. kissing, sharing a toothbrush, coughing, etc.) However, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. Individuals who have been exposed are often given preventive antibiotics to prevent infection.
Signs and symptoms of the disease typically include a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and altered mental status (confusion). Symptoms can appear quickly or over several days, typically within 3-7 days after exposure. Factors that can increase the risk for bacterial meningitis include age less than one month, living in a community setting such as a dormitory, and certain medical conditions. Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics, especially if they are started as soon as possible.
The best way to protect against certain types of bacterial meningitis is through getting recommended vaccinations such as the meningococcal and Hib vaccines. Recommended vaccines for children, preteens, teens, and adults can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/index.html
If you suspect you or a family member may have meningitis, please contact your primary care provider.