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Meningococcemia takes toll of one in Capital

Health experts in the Capital warn that the numbers may rise if precautions are not taken, reports Vidya Krishnan.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2007 19:02 IST

One death and ten new cases of meningococcemia have been reported in the last seven days. Health experts warn that the numbers may rise if precautions are not taken.

According to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the second death was reported from Maharaja Agrasen Hospital during the last week of January. "The patient was from Rohini and his family and neighbors have been given protective medicines," said Dr NK Yadav, Municipal Health Officer (MHO), MCD.

Twenty-three cases of meningococcemia and two deaths have been reported this year. "The numbers of cases being reported are definitely fewer, compared to last year.

"But meningococcemia cases continue to prevail from January to May. So if we do not take necessary precautions now, these cases can rapidly increase," added Dr Yadav.

Sixty deaths and 441 such cases were reported in the May 2005 outbreak while 34 deaths and 486 cases were reported last year.

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection. The disease is expressed as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord or meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in the blood.

What causes meningococcal meningitis?

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, a leading cause of meningitis and septicemia (or blood poisoning). Meningitis is one of the most common manifestations of the disease, although it has been known to cause septic arthritis, pneumonia, brain inflammation and other syndromes.

What are the symptoms?

The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease 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.

Preventative measures

* Practice good personal hygiene by covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing.
* Wash hands frequently with soap.
* Do not share eating or drinking utensils.
* Maintain good general health by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate rest, and avoiding alcohol.
* Avoid inhaling cigarette smoke, due to the fact that it increases susceptibility to infection. 
* Know the symptoms of the disease and immediately see a physician if they should occur.