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For Release: February 15, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601                                                                       

Meningococcal Disease Confirmed in Northeast Oklahoma Infant

Oklahoma State Department of Health officials confirmed today that a Pawnee County infant has died of meningococcal disease. Health department officials are working to identify all persons at risk and will recommend post-exposure antibiotics.  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. 

Family members of the case have received post-exposure antibiotics.  Officials from the Tulsa Health Department are working with the child care center that the child attended to notify parents of children who were assigned to the same classroom and recommend they receive post-exposure antibiotics. 

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.

Eleven cases of meningococcal disease were reported in Oklahoma during 2011, and one person died.  This is the second reported case, and first death of meningococcal disease in the state in 2012.

The symptoms may appear two to ten days after infection, but usually appear within three to four days.  People 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.  Casual contacts, such as students in a school classroom or co-workers at a workplace, are not at increased risk of getting the disease and therefore do not need treatment with the antibiotic.  Persons who were never in contact with the person that was diagnosed with meningococcal disease are not at risk.

For more information on meningococcal disease, contact the Epidemiologist-on-call at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Acute Disease Service at (405) 271-4060, or the Tulsa Health Department at (918) 582-9355.


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