Meningitis Scare in Tallahassee

The good news is it is not the potentially fatal kind. The bad news it can still make you very sick.

Two-year-old Cliff Crusberg was rushed to the emergency room last week when his dad began to suspect something was terribly wrong.

Bill Crusberg, Cliff’s father, says, "He was throwing up and holding his head saying his head was hurting really bad, which I thought was unusual for a kid, especially when he's throwing up. You'd think he be complaining about his stomach."

Cliff was diagnosed with viral meningitis and hospitalized for two days. Emergency room director Dr. Javier Escobar says the capital city is in the midst of a meningitis epidemic; 88 confirmed cases at TMH so far.

Dr. Javier Escobar says, "Normally we see 10 to 20 case a month. Recently we're seeing 40 to 50 cases a month."

Thankfully all of the meningitis cases diagnosed in Tallahassee are viral, not bacterial. That's the kind that's potentially fatal.

Doctors say parents should watch for these telltale symptoms: fever, stiff neck and a terrible headache. Many describe it as the worst headache of their life.

About two thirds of the meningitis cases in Tallahassee thus far are among children and doctors urge parents to follow this father's lead. Pay close attention to their child's next fever or headache or both.

Viral meningitis is contracted much like the common cold, so keep in mind similar safeguards, especially if your children are around others at school, day care or camp. Extended Web Coverage

What is Meningitis?

  • Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord.

  • Bacterial meningitis is generally more serious.

  • While meningococcal disease is the main cause of bacterial meningitis, there are many other types including pneumococcal, Hib, Group B streptococcal and others.

How do you contract Meningitis?

  • At any given time in the U.S., one person in 10 will be carrying the bacteria that can cause meningococcal meningitis or septicaemia.

  • We carry them in the back of our nose and throat without ever realizing they are there.

  • In a few people the bacteria overcome the body’s immune defenses and pass through the lining of the nose and throat into the blood stream.

  • Once in the blood, they can cause two types of infection; meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.

  • Scientists do not yet fully understand why a few people develop meningitis or septicaemia from bacteria, which are harmless to most of us.

  • Statistics show that children under the age of five, and young adults, have a higher risk of developing meningitis or septicaemia, although anyone can get these diseases.

  • The bacteria are very weak and can only survive for a short period of time outside the body.

  • The bacteria cannot live long in the air and are not carried on household objects such as clothes, furniture or toys.

  • To contract meningitis, you must be in very close contact with someone before the bacteria can pass between you, and even then it is unlikely that you will develop meningitis because most of us have natural resistance to the bacteria.

Can Meningitis be treated?

  • Meningitis can be treated. However, because it develops extremely rapidly, it is important to know the signs and symptoms, and to get medical help quickly if you think that someone has either of these diseases.

  • At least 95 percent of people recover from meningococcal meningitis, but the recovery rate in patients with meningococcal septicaemia can be as low as 50 percent, depending on the severity of the disease .

  • Both types of infection can kill very quickly if not recognized and treated in time.

Signs and symptoms of Meningitis

  • Rash (although not present in all cases)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Losing consciousness
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights

Babies may also suffer from:

  • Tense or bulging soft spot on the baby's head
  • Blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue
  • Refusing to feed
  • Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
  • A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless

Source: (the Meningitis Research Foundation Web site)