Portland Teen Dies of Presumed Meningococcal Meningitis- What To Do?

petechiae-rashMy heart goes out to the family and friends of Jake, the 17 year old from Central Catholic High School who is suspected to have died from meningococcal disease.  As a community, we mourn the loss of every child who loses life or function.  Historically in Oregon, we have about one death a year and a handful of people who suffer either brain damage from meningitis or sometimes loss of limbs from meningococcal disease.  As such, the chance of something terrible happening is about one in a million, no consolation of course if it affects you or yours. 

In Oregon, about 60% of meningococcal disease is from Type B.  It is important to note that the vaccine for meningococcal (which is typically given starting at age 11) does not cover this strain and only covers types A, C, Y, and W-135.  When the final results are released, if it turns out Jake had type B, then families need to be aware that there is nothing special that needs to be done, unless their child had close contact with Jake and those children and families likely have been contacted already for a preventative dose of antibiotics. It is typically not necessary to give antibiotics to school contacts, since this illness is contacted mostly from saliva, coughing, and kissing.  

The other important point is that if you, as a parent, should notice a petechiae or purpura rash (non-blanching) in a child who has high fever or looks ill, do not wait until the morning, get to your doctor’s office or the ER right away as this infection (meningococcal) is very treatable with antibiotics when caught early.   

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Dr. Paul

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