Maine faces viral meningitis threat after health officials identified the second case of this disease in a week.
The patient who has been diagnosed with this condition is an elementary school kid from Cumberland. As authorities have stated, the student has required hospitalization and is currently receiving medical treatment.
The identity of the patient hasn’t been revealed, but according to Jeff Porter, superintendent for Maine School Administrative District, the child is enrolled at Mabel I. Wilson School.
A student at Biddeford High School has also been affected by this virus several days ago, and has been absent from school throughout the week.
A couple of cases were also identified in Michigan, concerning students from Grand Blanc Community Schools and Dailey Elementary.
In total, around 20 infections have been reported throughout the state in 2015, a much higher number than previous years, when the average incidence of the disease was less than 8 cases per year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers viral meningitis much less severe and much more common than bacterial meningitis.
The disease consists in the inflammation of the meninges, a membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. It is caused predominantly by non-polio enteroviruses, which are especially active in the summer and fall. However, it can also result from viruses linked to mumps, measles, influenza or herpes.
The infection is highly contagious and spread mostly through hand to mouth transmission, by coming in close contact with another person who has the virus (kissing, sneezing, coughing, sharing personal items).
Symptoms encountered among infants usually include fever, lack of energy, drowsiness, lack of appetite and irritability.
When it comes to adults, the disease manifests itself through the same above-mentioned signs, coupled with photophobia (light sensitivity), headaches, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.
Normally, viral meningitis tends to be quite mild, and patients can recover without antibiotic treatment in about 7 to 10 days. Nevertheless, in some cases symptoms can extend for several months, causing hospitalization and long-term absence from school or work.
Moreover, babies younger than one month and people with weakened immune systems can suffer debilitating complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss etc.
Due to the ease of contracting this disease, it is recommended to take certain precautions, such as washing hands frequently, disinfecting surfaces that are used regularly (such as doorknobs) and covering one’s mouth with a tissue or a sleeve while coughing or sneezing.
Also, people should avoid the vicinity of those who have already been diagnosed with the virus, and stay home if they too are sick.
Last but not least, those displaying the symptoms should seek medical care immediately, in order to exclude the possibility of bacterial meningitis, which manifests itself similarly but can be much more dangerous.
As the CDC has reported, every year, approximately 4,100 infections and 500 deaths have been caused by bacterial meningitis in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007.
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