Health director responds to meningitis concerns

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

04 May 2001 | Mass vaccinations are not necessary for the campus population, campus health officials maintain, in response to the recent death of a Berkeley child from meningococcal disease and two other apparently unrelated cases of meningitis in Livermore and Sacramento.

Antibiotic vaccine is needed only for those who have been in close contact with infected individuals, said Dr. Pete Dietrich, medical director of University Health Services.
"There is an increased risk of transmissibility if at least four hours of close contact has occurred during the week before illness onset," Dietrich said.

Close contact would include situations involving interaction among housemates, partners, day-care contacts, cellmates, or exposure to nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) secretions from kissing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or intubation.

Symptoms of meningitis include fever, a stiff neck or severe neck pain, suspicious rash, headache and vomiting. Those who suffer these symptoms should promptly seek emergency room care, Dietrich said.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends meningococcal meningitis vaccine for high-risk individuals, such as those with select immune-system deficiencies, those who have had their spleen removed, certain research and lab personnel and travelers to the African meningitis belt and other high-risk areas.

For information, call University Health Services at 642-1814. The Tang Center also has an online handout that focuses on meningitis. The city of Berkeley Public Health Department has set up a hotline, at 981-2489, to answer specific questions.


Meningitis handout


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