Twenty seven cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in Virginia since June 2022 and five people have died of complications, prompting the state on Wednesday to announce a statewide outbreak.
The cases all have been caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis type Y, something 26 of the people had not been vaccinated for, the Virginia Department of Health said in a news release. The patients are mostly Black and between the ages of 30 and 60.
The health department said that none of the cases involves anyone in Northern Virginia. Most of the cases involve eastern Virginia residents. A regional outbreak started in Hampton Roads in September 2022. The strain involved is one the department said is known to be circulating “more widely in the United States.” But the risk to the state’s residents is low.
The bacteria spread through respiratory and throat secretions. Symptoms start out flu-like but can become severe. “You should not delay seeking care if you experience the following symptoms: fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, and possibly a rash,” the department said.
Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics. In rare cases, people can get meningitis or septicemia. Meningitis is an inflammation of tissues surround the brain and spinal cord. Septicemia is a blood poisoning.
The health department urges parents to make sure children are vaccinated with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Teens should get the vaccine around ages 11 or 12 and a booster shot around the age of 16.
It also recommends the following common sense measures:
- Don’t share personal items (cups, water bottles, eating utensils, cigarettes, vapes, lipsticks, toothbrushes).
- Wash your hands.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Go to the doctor if you experience symptoms of meningococcal disease.
Feature image, Prostock-studio/stock.adobe.com
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