Vermont officials say meningitis outbreak unlikely here

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(Host) Vermont health officials say they are watching the outbreak of bacterial meningitis in New Hampshire. But because the disease isn’t easily spread, there are no plans to take additional precautions. In the past week, there have been five reported cases of bacterial meningitis in New Hampshire, with one fatality.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) It’s unusual for a number of cases of bacterial meningitis to occur at once. New Hampshire health officials have warned the state’s hospitals to be especially mindful of the symptoms, which include high fever, severe headache, sensitivity to light, irritability and sleeplessness. All of the current cases are being treated at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover.

Bacterial meningitis causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The disease has a relatively high mortality rate, but it’s usually only transmitted through contact with the saliva or mucous of an infected person.

Vermont State Epidemiologist Doctor Cort Lohff says New Hampshire officials are locating people who came into contact with the infected individuals and it’s unlikely the disease will spread to Vermont.

(Lohff) “The folks in the New Hampshire Health Department are taking all the appropriate measures to identify the contacts of these cases and making sure that those contacts are given the appropriate antibiotics. But we don’t expect any spillover into Vermont.”

(Zind) A handful of cases are reported each year in Vermont. So far this year there have been four cases of bacterial meningitis, with no fatalities.

Officials at the Vermont Department of Health say there was some confusion about reports that a Bennington teenager had died from bacterial meningitis. The teenager was actually from Bennington, New Hampshire, not Bennington, Vermont.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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