Health News

Rising Cases of Invasive Meningococcal Disease Prompt New Warnings Across the US

Representation for Meningococcal Bacteria | Credits: Adobe Stock

United States: The increase of the invasive bacterial meningococcal disease cases have forced the local health authorities of the US states to issue new warnings. Recently, an uptick has been reported by the Chicago Department of Public Health. 

To date, during the initial months of year 2024, as many as eight (8) cases have been reported linked to invasive meningococcal disease in Chicago. According to the official data, the number of cases have surpassed the total number of cases reported in 2023 and between 2017 and 2022, i.e. seven (7) and one to three (1 to 3), according to reports by CBS News. 

What exactly is invasive meningococcal disease, and how does it affect humans?

The health experts have outlined that invasive meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection which affects the bloodstream, brain lining and the spinal cord of the infected human. Accordingly, in certain cases, the disease can be severe and even deadly. 

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To address the concern, Chicago Public Health Commission has issued a news release, in which Commissioner Dr Olusimbo ‘Simbo’ Ige stated, “We are monitoring this situation very closely and so far have identified no common exposure among Chicago cases.” 

Dr Simbo Ige further mentioned, “While cases remain very rare, we want people to be aware because the outcomes can be so severe. As with other illnesses such as COVID-19 and measles, keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against meningococcal disease.”

Nation-level surge in meningococcal disease cases!

In addition to this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued a national level health advisory about the increase in invasive meningococcal disease cases across the nation. 

According to health officials, the national health trends since the year 2023 showed that the cases of invasive meningococcal disease have disproportionately impacted individuals aged between 30 and 60 years, particularly those of African Americans. In the fifteen reported cases within Chicago spanning the years 2023 to 2024, nine (9) of the afflicted fell within the age range of 30 to 60, with eight (8) being of African American descent.

Meningococcal disease transmits through respiratory and oropharyngeal discharges such as saliva. Its transmissibility pales in comparison to that of influenza or the COVID-19 virus, generally necessitating close contact, such as intimate kissing, according to CBS News. 

While briefing about the common signs and symptoms of the meningococcal disease, the health experts highlighted that the symptoms shown can resemble to flu, but they worsen rapidly and can become deadly and severe within hours. Some of the common symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, altered mental status and sensitivity to light. 

Along with this, the symptoms linked to the infection include fever and chills, fatigue, cold hands and feet, severe body aches and pains, vomiting, rapid breathing, and diarrhea. In addition to this, the infected person can also witness a dark purple rash after a few days. 

The health agency has outlined that an individual who has develop any of the symptom must seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Moreover, the adolescents and young adults should be vaccinated against meningococcal diseases at the ages of eleven or twelve and another at the age of sixteen as per the recommendation of the city.

Although they often refer to the same thing, it is important to note that meningitis and meningococcal disease are two different things and this has been shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Meningococcal disease is a disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, whereas meningitis is inflammation of the meningeal membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord—which is a symptom of this disease as well as the viral and bacterial infections.

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