Woman at NJ Conference Dies of Meningitis

CHERRY HILL, NJ-Conference goers were rushed to healthcare centers this weekend after Joanne Hemstreet, 45, of Kingston, Mass died.

Hemstreet and 500 other Cendant Mortgage employees were gathered for national sales convention at the Cherry Hill Hilton. Hemstreet checked herself into Kennedy Memorial Hospital-Cherry Hill after suffering from a fever, headache, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Health officials feared anthrax, Legionnaire's disease or meningococcus may have been the cause. More than 80 people were evaluated at nearby hospitals. However, test results show Hemstreet died of Neisseria meningitidis--a bacterial form of meningitis that is less contagious than the viral form. It is an infection of spinal fluid and the fluid that surrounds the brain. The infection can be caused by either Streptococcus pneumoniae or Neisseria meningitis. Both forms are contagious through respiratory and throat secretions, but not causal contact or simply breathing the same air as an infected patient.

Symptoms include sudden fever, intense headache, stiff neck and nausea. Meningitis can cause brain damage and death.

Seven others from the conference remain hospitalized, although hospital officials say it is a precaution because they have flu-like symptoms.

Information from www.washingtonpost.com, previous Infection Control Today research