Bacterial Meningitis Cluster in Florida Prompts Investigation

When news of a bacterial meningitis outbreak spreads, you may hear the phrase “cluster.” When referencing a small cluster, it refers to a smaller group of people, often in a similar geographic area, who are exposed to – and develop – bacterial meningitis at the same time. According to MSN, the Florida Department of Health is currently investigation a cluster in Leon County, FL. This County consists of Tallahassee, Woodville, and Fort Braden.

So far, at least three people have been diagnosed with this serious infections. The Department of Health is working to understand where these individuals may have been exposed. All of the individuals are younger adults between the ages of 18-22. At least one infected individual is a student at Florida State University (FSU), though there seem to be no other students showing signs of infection at this time. Through contact tracing, those exposed to this individual have been notified. So far, cases of bacterial meningitis are not yet showing up at other universities or schools around the area.

To lower your risk of becoming infected with bacterial meningitis, students – and others – are encouraged to receive their meningitis vaccinations. If you are located in the area of this recent cluster, you can schedule your vaccination here.

About Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is a serious bacterial infection of the meninges, or the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniaeListeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and Neisseria meningitidis, the infection causes the meninges to become inflamed. These bacteria may spread through coughing or sneezing, saliva, kissing, sharing drinks, or other similar means of close contact. Risk factors include young age, traveling to certain parts of the world, or living in group settings like college campuses.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis may appear up to 3-7 days following exposure, though rapid onset within hours may also occur. Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative. This is because, in some cases, this condition can be fatal. Even when not fatal, serious complications can occur. Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Altered mental status (confusion, excessive sleepiness)
  • Seizures
  • Appetite loss
  • Skin rash
  • Excessive irritability (in infants)
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hearing loss
  • Sepsis
  • Brain damage

Learn more about bacterial meningitis.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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