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Barton County meningitis death under investigation
Health officials working to ID those at risk
Barton County Health Dept web

 The Barton County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are collaborating with health care and other public health partners to investigate the meningitis death of a Barton County adult, Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said.

While laboratory results are not yet final, the death is suspected to be caused by Neisseria meningitidis, which can cause severe and fatal cases of meningococcal meningitis, Schneider said. This is an infection of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. 

According to Schneider, signs and symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, chills, and feeling unusually weak or tired. Nausea, vomiting, altered mental state, and a dark purple rash may also be present.

“The Health Department is working to identify all persons at high risk of exposure to the individual and are actively providing recommendations for antibiotic prophylaxis,” she said. “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest the general public is at an increased risk of developing meningitis.”

N. meningitidis is only spread from person-to-person by sharing throat or respiratory secretions (saliva or spit). One must be in close contact with a sick person’s saliva or respiratory secretions in order for the bacteria to spread. 

Close contact can include being directly sneezed or coughed upon, kissing, sharing a water bottle, or sharing eating/drinking utensils. It is not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. 

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends post-exposure antibiotics for household, close, or intimate contacts during the 7 days prior to illness onset. Healthcare professionals who had unprotected contact with the respiratory secretions will also receive post-exposure antibiotics.  

“If you are experiencing symptoms of meningococcal meningitis, immediately visit your primary care physician, an urgent care medical clinic or emergency room,” Schneider said.

For more information, contact the Barton County Health Department at 620-793-1902.