Media ResourcesComments for the Media
The media is often made aware of specific meningitis cases, after a case is confirmed, and others may have been exposed to meningitis. Many times people in the local community need to be made aware of the case, so that those who have had close contact with the infected individual, might be able to take antibiotics in an effort to prevent additional cases. This DOES NOT mean the entire county has to rush out and get antibiotics.
The problem is that often this type of announcement crosses the boundary from informative warning, to media hype. All too often, we are told of stories that cause panic in the local community, or that cause the infected individual and their family to feel as if they have the black plague, and they should be quarantined.
For example: a headline of "OFFICIALS SEEK THOSE WHO HAD CLOSE CONTACT WITH CENTRAL HIGH STUDENT" might not sell as many newspapers as "DEADLY INFECTIOUS DISEASE SWEEPING THROUGH CENTRAL HIGH, THOUSANDS IN DANGER", but which is really more accurate?
We would like to ask the media to please try to keep their coverage as medically correct as possible, and to resist the temptation to portray the case or cases as "the flesh eating, antibiotic resistant bacteria, that will kill thousands before sunset".
Please use common sense, and try to inform the public, rather than inciting panic.
Quick "Rules of Thumb"
The cause of meningitis is usually a bacteria or a viruses that is commonly found in our environment. Approximately 1 in 5 people carries the bacteria in their noses and/or throats. What is important, is how the infected person's immune system deals with this bacteria or virus.
Close Contact can mean many things to many people, but here is how we judge it: someone who has been within 3 feet of the infected individual, for more than 3 minutes, within the last 7 days. People who have been in close contact with a person who has had meningitis, should be very aware of the symptoms, and should seek immediate professional medical attention, should they begin to experience some or all of them. Those who have been in close contact with a person who has meningococcal meningitis, should be treated with Rifampin (an antibiotic), as a preventative.
Viral meningitis can cause the infected person to feel really terrible, but does not usually lead to permanent damage. Those who have had close contact should be aware of the symptoms, and should seek professional medical attention, should they begin to experience the symptoms. Antibiotics do not work on viral meningitis, and the standard treatment is to make sure the patient is hydrated, gets plenty of rest, eats as well as they can, and treats the pain with effective painkillers.
Bacterial meningitis is more serious, and usually comes in two forms: Pneumococcal and Meningococcal. There are other forms, but these are the most common today.
Pneumococcal meningitis usually attacks newborn or young children, between the ages of about 4 months through about 6 years of age. Many times, it is accompanied by some form of a severe ear infection. It can, and often does lead to permanent injuries including deafness, brain damage, stroke, etc. Treatment for pneumococcal meningitis usually involves IV antibiotics. Prevention of many strains of pneumococcal disease can be achieved through the use of the Prevnar vaccine.
Meningococcal meningitis usually attacks teenagers and young adults. Those at particularly high risk are college freshmen, living in dormitories. Meningococcal meningitis the most severe form, and can lead to sepsis (see below). Treatment for meningococcal meningitis also involves various forms of antibiotics for the infected person. In addition, those who have had close contact (see above) with the infected person, should be given a round of Rifampin as a prophylactic measure. Long Term prevention of many strains of meningococcal disease can be achieved through the use of the Menomune Vaccine, and more recently, the Menactra vaccine.
Sepsis is a condition where the cardiovascular system begins to fail, leading to a "purple rash" that spreads rapidly. Often blood flow decreases or ceases altogether to the extremities, leaving fingers, toes, hands, and feet, looking like a severe case of frostbite. Amputations of extremities in cases of sepsis are common.
Symptoms in adults include: high fever, stiff neck, nausea, drowsiness (lethargic), seizures, dislike of light, and joint pain. Not all victims experience all symptoms.
Symptoms in children include: high fever, high pitched cry (almost a scream), nausea, dislike of being held, arching back and/or stiff neck, blank staring expression, drowsiness (lethargic), and pale skin color.
The Meningitis Foundation of America, has the following video resources available:
Board members of The Meningitis Foundation of America, Inc. will try to make themselves available for radio and/or audio interviews, on a case by case basis, usually with a two hour lead time. They can be reached at 480-270-2652.
In addition, the following audio files may be downloaded and used: