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Washoe County officials concerned about unusually high number of viral meningitis cases

MGN Online

Washoe County Health officials report they are concerned about a higher than usual number of viral meningitis cases in 2017.

Officials say over thirty cases have been reported in Washoe County so far this year, with 27 reported since July 15. Patients have ranged in age from 1 to 81 years old, and the median average is 13 years old.

Meningitis is a rare disease that causes inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord usually due to a bacterial or viral infection.

While some types of meningitis can be fatal, viral meningitis is the least dangerous type of meningitis. It is also the most common. There are no vaccines and those who get the disease often recover on their own within 7-10 days, but officials say they are continuing to monitor the patients progress, and it is still important for anyone experiencing symptoms to see a healthcare provider right away. Babies younger than one month old and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience serious symptoms from the disease.

Symptoms

Adults

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Sleepiness or trouble waking
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy

Babies

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Poor sleeping
  • Sleepiness or trouble waking
  • Lethargy

Dr. Randall Todd, the Director of Washoe County Health District's Epidemiology Division, says that most of the cases reported were hospitalized for about two days and have since recovered.

The Health District and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are working to learn if the outbreak is associated with an outbreak in Susanville that prompted the closure of Lassen High School and Lassen Community College. Laboratory tests are underway to determine if there is a link between the two outbreaks.

The disease can be contracted by close contact, such as touching or shaking hands with an infected person; touching objects, surfaces, or dirty diapers that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; or drinking water with the virus in it.

You can prevent the disease by washing your hands often especially after changing diapers, using the toilet, coughing, or blowing your nose. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and avoid close contact such as kissing, touching, or sharing cups with people who are ill. The health district also recommends simply staying home when you are ill.

Surfaces that may be contaminated can be disinfected using a bleach solution (1/2 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.) Areas that should consider deep cleaning include households with anyone recently diagnosed with viral meningitis, community sports clubs, daycare facilities, group home daycare, public museums, playgrounds, or any other facilities that host activities for children, such as churches.

Despite most of the cases being reported in students, Washoe County Schools say at this point they are not planning on closing schools because no single school has more than two cases.


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