Meningococcemia has claimed two more victims in the Capital, taking this year’s death toll to eight. Forty-eight cases of the deadly bacterial infection have been reported in the last 44 days, and February alone accounts for 4 deaths and 20 cases.
While health experts dispel the fear of an outbreak, they add the city is at risk because of overcrowding and indiscriminate spitting in public places. “Meningococcemia spreads through the respiratory route. One might not live in a congested neighbourhood but he/she is still at risk. It is advisable that people cover their mouth while coughing and spitting in public places,” said Dr Bir Singh, Professor of Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Municipal Corporation of Delhi reports say most cases are reported from congested areas of the city. “This is primarily because of lack of hygiene. We are tracking down people and giving precautionary medicines in the neighbourhoods,” said Dr NK Yadav, MCD’s Municipal Health Officer (MHO).
While health experts maintain that incidents of the infection are not as bad as previous outbreaks, precautions must be taken to keep the situation under control.
“Typically the disease peaks in April and May and cases till then will continue to trickle in. But what we do not want is for the situation to spiral out of control. The general public should be aware of the symptoms and precautions that are necessary to be taken,” added Dr Yadav.
Sixty deaths and 441 such cases were reported in the May 2005 outbreak while 34 deaths and 486 cases were reported in 2006.
The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease resemble the flu, said include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy, and may resemble the flu.
The disease progresses rapidly and can cause death in as little as 12 hours after infecting the patient.