A five-year old Hammonton boy died today at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where he was admitted on Oct. 2, 2004 and was being treated. Testing confirmed that the child had meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection.
The Atlantic County Division of Public Health has notified the families of children who may have had close contact with the child. This includes parents of classmates and other close family members. The Atlantic County Division of Public Health also met with school and town officials early Monday morning to address their questions and concerns.
The families were notified of the illness and were told to contact their healthcare providers immediately to be evaluated regarding the need for prophylactic antibiotics. Any child who exhibits any signs of illness over the next ten days should seek immediate medical attention.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is monitoring the situation.
Meningococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria and is spread by prolonged, close contact with someone who has the illness. The bacteria are spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing cups, bottles, or eating utensils with the ill person. Even after exposure to the bacteria, it is very unusual to get infected. Typically, after infection it takes two to 10 days before symptoms appear.
Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and a rash. These symptoms need immediate medical attention. Diagnosis can be made by laboratory tests of blood or spinal fluid. Early treatment is important. After exposure to the bacteria, infection can be prevented by antibiotics.
In New Jersey in 2003 there were 29 cases of meningococcal disease reported and 19 cases to date this year.
To prevent the spread of any contagious infectious disease, frequent hand washing is important. Cover nose and mouth with tissues when coughing or sneezing. Avoid sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, cups, drinking glasses or water bottles.
Source: New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services