Meningococcal Disease in Eastern Virginia: 3 dead in outbreak


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The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has reported twelve cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) type Y reported since June 2022; The outbreak was declared in September 2022.

Three patients died of complications associated with the disease, suggesting that this strain of the outbreak may cause more severe disease than is typically seen in type Y cases. The deaths occurred between one and six days after symptom onset for the three fatal cases. This strain is also believed to spread more widely, both in Virginia and other states.

VDH has not identified a common risk factor; The cases are thought to be related to asymptomatic community transmission. The case patients are all residents of Hampton Roads and most are black or African American adults between the ages of 30 and 60. Eleven patients had not been vaccinated against Y-meningococcal disease, and one was partially vaccinated.

Meningococcal disease is a serious disease caused by bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. The bacteria spread from person to person through sharing of respiratory and throat secretions (such as kissing, coughing or sneezing directly into the face of others, or sharing cups, water bottles, eating utensils, and cigarettes).

These bacteria can commonly be found in the nose and throat of people without causing disease. Rarely, people develop serious forms of the disease, such as meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) or septicemia (infection of the bloodstream). Symptoms can initially appear flu-like and quickly become more severe. Early detection and diagnosis are essential for timely antibiotic treatment. You should not delay in seeking care if you have the following symptoms: fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, and possibly a rash.

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In general, while this outbreak continues, the VDH recommends the following:

  • Don’t share personal items (such as e-cigarettes, lipsticks, and toothbrushes)
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t delay seeking care if you have symptoms of meningococcal disease
  • Make sure your preteens and teens get the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) on schedule at age 11 or 12 and then a booster at age 16
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you are at risk of meningococcal disease to make sure you are up to date on the MenACWY vaccine

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