LOS ANGELES - Meningococcal disease is on the rise in Los Angeles County, with seven cases reproted since mid-March, county health officials announced Tuesday.Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening bacterial illness that can cause meningitis and blood infections. Health officials said they are monitoring the cases and working to limit the spread of disease. "The increase in cases of meningococcal disease in a short period of time is higher than expected. Last year, there were a total of 21 such cases," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. "It is important to know that the meningococcal vaccine can prevent two of the three most common types of meningococcal disease in the United States. Also, meningococcal disease can be treated with appropriate antibiotics if caught early." Meningococcal disease is spread through close contact with an ill person's respiratory or throat secretions, including saliva. It is not spread by casual contact or through simply breathing the same air as a sick person. Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, skin rash and aversion to bright lights. Suspected cases of meningococcal disease are usually treated with antibiotics. Health officials recommended that 11- and 12-year-olds receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine, along with a booster dose between ages 16-18. Less than 50 percent of children ages 11-12 are currently vaccinated for meningococcal disease, authorities said. Certain "high-risk" children ages 2-10 are also encouraged to receive the vaccine. High-risk children include those who travel to countries where meningococcal meningitis is hyperendemic or epidemic, and children with complement component deficiency or functional or anatomic asplenia. Young adults should get vaccinated if they are planning to live in a college dormitory, officials said. Adults who require immunizations include those who with weak immune systems, microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria, U.S. military recruits and those traveling to countries where the disease is common. Residents should check with their healthcare provider for more information or visit publichealth.lacounty.gov.
********** Published: April 21, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 1