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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 18, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael
609-984-7160
Thomas Slater
609-984-7160


 
PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT - MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE


 

On Saturday, July 17, 2004 a five-year old child presented at St. Barnabas Medical Center's Emergency Room in Livingston. The child died on Sunday, July 18. Testing confirmed that the child died from meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection.

The child was a camper at the Jefferson Lakes Country Day Camp in Byram Township (Sussex County). Families of children who may have had close contact with the child were notified of the illness and were told to contact their health care providers immediately to be evaluated regarding the need for prophylactic antibiotics. Any child who exhibits any signs of illness over the next ten days should seek immediate medical attention.  

Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria and is spread by prolonged, close contact with someone who has the illness. The bacteria are spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing cups, bottles, or eating utensils with the ill person. Even after exposure to the bacteria, it is very unusual to get infected. Typically, after infection it takes 2-10 days before symptoms appear.

 

Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and a rash. These symptoms need immediate medical attention.  Diagnosis can be made by laboratory tests of blood or spinal fluid.

 

Early treatment is important.  After exposure to the bacteria, infection can be prevented by antibiotics.  In New Jersey in 2003 there were 29 cases of meningococcal disease reported and 19 cases to date this year.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has activated a toll-free telephone hotline to provide information about meningococcal meningitis. The number is 1-866-234-0964.

To prevent the spread of any contagious infectious disease, frequent hand washing is important.  Cover nose and mouth with tissues when coughing or sneezing.  Avoid sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, cups, drinking glasses or water bottles.

For general information on meningococcal disease, visit the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website at www.state.nj.us/health.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is working closely with the New Jersey’s hospitals, local public health officials and camp administrators to address the situation.

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