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For Release:  March 11, 2010
Contact:  Leslea Bennett-Webb                                                
Office of Communications                                                
405/271-5601     

Local Oologah Contact:
John Wylie
918/629-9220

Situation Update No. 3 
State Health Department Opens Phone Bank to Answer Questions on  Meningococcal Cases in Oologah  Elementary School

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has opened a phone bank to provide information to the public regarding cases of meningococcal disease in the Oologah-Talala elementary school. Callers can dial toll-free 1-866-278-7134 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. this evening, and tomorrow, Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Officials from the Rogers County Health Department and Oklahoma State Department of Health are investigating a total of six cases of children who became ill this week with symptoms of meningococcal disease. Two children have died from the disease. Four remain hospitalized.

As a preventive measure, local and state health department personnel were at the school today working with school officials to offer antibiotics to lower elementary school children (Pre-K through 2nd grade), school staff, and close contacts with cases. Health department personnel will return to the school tomorrow to continue to provide the antibiotics. Parental consent is required.

Public health officials stress that the general public is not at risk.  Only persons who have had close, personal contact to a person with a meningococcal infection have a slightly increased risk of developing the disease. 

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.  Many healthy people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat without any symptoms.  Usually, the bacteria stay in the nose and throat for a few days and will then disappear.  The bacteria are spread from person-to-person by direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat.  The reason that the organism disappears in some people and produces illness in others is not clearly understood but is probably related to individual susceptibility.

The symptoms may appear two to ten days after infection, but usually appear within three to four days.  People ill with meningococcal septicemia may have fever, nausea, vomiting, and a rash.  People that are ill with meningitis will have fever,

intense headache, nausea, vomiting, and a stiff neck.  It is important to seek care from a physician as soon as possible if these symptoms appear.

Rifampin is the antibiotic generally prescribed for those with close contact.  It eliminates the bacteria from the nose and throat of persons carrying it, which may help protect contacts from developing a meningococcal infection. 

Sixteen cases of meningococcal disease were reported in Oklahoma during 2009 with one death. Thus far in 2010, five cases were reported with one death. (These cases are not connected to current investigation.)

For more information on meningococcal disease, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site at www.health.ok.gov and http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/about/faq.html .

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