MANILA, Philippines – The deadly meningococcemia virus has struck again, infecting a student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina yesterday, forcing the school to shut down for a week.
Before that, there had been no reported cases in the country for the past 6 years until the 33 suspected cases in Baguio City in October 2004 where 19 of those infected died. The World Health Organization (WHO) had offered then its support to the Philippines’ health authorities.
What meningococcemia is
Meningococcemia is a meningococcal disease which is very much endemic in Asian countries, including the Philippines. However, most of its cases occur in an irregular manner and not in large incidents.
According to the WHO, this disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningtidis which are very fragile and cannot survive in natural conditions outside the human body.
As compared to meningitis, which is also a clinical feature of meningococcal disease, meningococcemia is more associated with high case fatality ratio.
Its contamination is seasonal occurring most of the time in colder months. A person testing positive to this disease must be incubated for 2 to 10 days.
According to the Department of Health’s website, this disease is characterized by sudden onset of high fever for 24 hours; stiff neck; convulsion in some; delirium; altered mental status; vomiting; cough; sore throat; other respiratory symptoms; pinpoint rashes that become wider and appear like bruises starting on the legs and arms; large map-like, bruise-like patches; severe skin lesions that may lead to gangrene; and unstable vital signs.
The infection may be transmitted through direct close contact with contaminated individuals by sharing a glass, cigarette, straw, utensils, or kissing.
It can also spread through contact with a person’s respiratory discharges from the nose and throat.
Meningococcemia may lead to organ failures and worse, it can result in severe disability or death.
Antibiotics kill meningococcal bacteria and if taken early, it would help improve one's condition and increase chances of survival.