AUGUSTA, Maine – While stressing that bacterial meningitis is not easily spread, Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Dora Anne Mills and State Epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears issued a public health alert after the death of a 2-year-old girl in Westbrook last week.
The state issued a high-priority public health alert Friday after tests showed that meningococcal disease may have caused the child’s death. But it observed, “While this type of bacteria can be spread from one person to another through very close contact with oral secretions (saliva), it is not spread through the air, on surfaces, or in the stool or urine. It is highly unusual to see more than one case of illness from this infection at one time, and teachers or children who share the same classroom or ride the same school bus are not at high risk of becoming ill.”
The alert says the child attended a small daycare and participated in overnight visits with family and friends, and thats all those known to be in contact with the child have been notified.
Symptoms of the illness include sudden onset of high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and rash, which usually appear within our days after exposure to the bacteria.
Four cases of the disease were reported in Maine in 2009 and four cases have been reported so far this year, Mills says. She says an average of 8 cases of meningococcal disease occur in Maine each year.