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Health Officials Issue Strict Warning as Meningococcal Disease Cases Surge in the United States

Health Officials Issue Strict Warning as Meningococcal Disease Cases

United States: The health officials of the United States have issued strict warning for doctors about the recently increasing cases of meningococcal disease. The concerns have heightened as the disease is considered to be fatal and serious. This rare infection spreads by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.

An infectious disease expert and professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee – William Schaffner has outlined that the best way to attain protection against the disease is vaccination. He also emphasised that the over the decade the cases linked to the disease were witnessing a downward trend.

However, the cases linked to the infection have witnessed a sudden surge in the cases. According to the official data, as of March 25, the United States have reported around 143 cases of meningococcal disease, approximate two times of cases reported in 2023, i.e. 81 cases, during the same time.

The total number of cases reported in 2023 was 422, which was the highest annual number of cases since 2014, according to the data revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While addressing the concern, Schaffner said, “That’s a surprise.”

He further highlighted that another concern is that the increased number of cases of meningitis are commonly reported in teens and young adults, i.e., the majority of the cases have been reported among Americans aged 30 to 60 years. Along with this, the majority of the cases were also seen among the Black Population and people with HIV – weakened immune systems.

What do experts have to suggest?

  • It spreads through close contact

While sharing the precautionary measures against the infection, the CDC highlighted that the meningococcal can spread from an infected person to a healthy person with a swap of saliva. MD, an epidemiologist at VCU Health and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at VCU School of Medicine in Richmond, Virginia – Barry Rittmann, said, “You usually get it from very close contact to infected people — especially if you’re kissing or if you’re around someone who is coughing a lot who has it.”

It is to be noted that another common way of spreading is sharing food and drinks.

  • Meningococcal disease can be seen in two distinct forms

Meningococcal infection can attack the human body in two distinct ways. The first ensues in the form of meningitis, wherein the bacterial intrusion results in inflammation of the meninges encompassing the brain and spinal cord. Classical indications of meningitis encompass pyrexia, cephalalgia, and a rigid cervical region. Additional symptoms may encompass emesis, vertigo, and cognitive disarray, as articulated by the CDC.

In the scenario where bacteria infiltrate the circulatory system, their proliferation can induce detriment to the endothelial linings of blood vessels, eliciting a spectrum of symptoms from hyperthermia to profound lethargy and emetic tendencies to agonizing myalgia. This constitutes the secondary form of the ailment, denominated meningococcal septicemia. Advanced stages of this malady may culminate in the emergence of a dusky violet rash upon the epidermis of afflicted individuals.

Health Officials Issue Strict Warning as Meningococcal Disease Cases
Health Officials Issue Strict Warning as Meningococcal Disease Cases

While meningitis typically prevails as the predominant manifestation of meningococcal malady, the prevailing surge is attributable to a distinct N. meningitidis strain inciting a higher incidence of bloodstream infections vis-à-vis meningitis, as stipulated in the CDC’s health advisory.

  • Immunization Against Meningococcal Infection

Prophylactic measures against meningococcal infection are available in the form of vaccines, recommended primarily for adolescents and young adults, alongside select cohorts of individuals at augmented susceptibility to meningococcal malady, encompassing those afflicted with HIV and individuals undergoing specific immunosuppressive regimens.

Furthermore, the inoculations are advocated for specific demographics such as globetrotters and healthcare practitioners. Notably, microbiologists are routinely exposed to N. meningitidis.

Prospective recipients may avail themselves of the vaccination as a remedial measure, particularly pertinent for older adults who may have remained unvaccinated, thereby necessitating consultation with their healthcare provider to explore this option.

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