Spike In Meningitis Cases Has NYC Health Officials Concerned

3 Recent Deaths Have Docs Recommending Kids Be Vaccinated

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Health Department released a troubling report on Thursday. Six cases of meningitis have been reported in just the last month.

It’s not an outbreak insists Dr. Don Weiss, but an unexplained increase in the number of meningococcal cases in the city sure has gotten the attention of health officials.

Meningitis — an inflammation of the protective membranes of the brain — is just one of the forms that meningococcal disease can take.

“In the past four weeks we’ve seen six cases. We average four over that period. Last year we had two,” Weiss told CBS 2’s John Metaxas.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports

1010 WINS’ Al Jones with advice from Dr. Brian McDonough

More ominously, out of those six cases that were spread over four out of the city’s five boroughs three people have died, and the city is now asking doctors to be on the look out for the disease. The three who died included two Manhattan women, ages 22 and 28, and a 55-year-old Staten Island woman.

“The earlier we make a diagnosis, the better the outcome for the patient,” Weiss said.

City health officials alerted doctors this week of the findings from a Dec. 20 to Jan. 17 survey. Zoe Tobin, a spokeswoman for the health department, said the average for the same period over the last 10 years amounts to four cases.

A summary of the findings said: “Meningococcal disease is typically a disease of winter and spring … and though the current incidence is more than has been seen in comparable time periods in previous years, it is not entirely unusual.”

What Michael La Forgia said he remembers most about his frightening bout with meningococcal disease six years ago is how quickly it progressed.

“I woke up with flu symptoms, chills, fever, muscle aches,” he said. “I went into septic shock, multiple organ failure.”

Doctors told his wife he would not survive the night.

In fact, up to a quarter of those stricken with meningococcal disease die from it. That’s why the health department has reacted so quickly to this latest spike.

You won’t likely catch meningococcal disease walking in the street. It’s spread through droplets from the nose or mouth, and requires close contact.

“Coughing, sneezing, sharing water bottles, kissing,” La Forgia said.

La Forgia, who managed to survive despite losing one leg and his toes on the other, said people, especially teenagers and college students living in dorms, need to take precautions.

“There is a vaccine that is safe and does not include the bacteria,” La Forgia said.

The City said none of the six cases are related to each other, and they come from different strains. Still the health department is recommending children between 2 and 18 be vaccinated.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More from Paul Murnane
  • Mark maslan

    Our daughter was the 28 year old referred to in the article. She developed a high fever on the afternoon of the tenth of January. She went to the hospital around 11:00 PM and was gone 6 hours later.We miss her terribly. Her sister was with her the whole time she was in the hospital and we take some comfort in knowing she was not alone. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have suffered a loss from this terrible disease

    • Olga Pasick

      I am so sorry for your loss. I know your hearts are broken and your life will never be the same. Wishing you peace and comfort dealing with your tragedy.

    • Dana

      I do apologize for the loss of your 28 year old daughter. I am 29 years old now, however February 2009 I contracted this deadly disease at the age of 27 years old from the NYC area as well. Still till this day I do not know where or how I contracted meningitis, however it was the scariest thing ever. I had very unusual symptoms compared to the majority of cases seen, but do not under estimate anything. Please if anyone ever feels anything go to the doctor and get checked out. You do not have to have a fever or any of the symptoms mentioned, because I did not. I had purpora which is red or purple colored spots that was all over my body and very bad joint pain, but did not feel like myself. I could not walk and I knew something was wrong just never thought it was as severe as it was. I was hospitalized just in time. The hospital put me on antibiotics immediately not even knowing what was wrong with me and thank god they did. Please do not take any symptoms for granted and think oh it’s just a cold or the flu and brush it off, because you never know what is really wrong and it’s better to be safe than sorry, before it’s too late. Once again, I do apology for everyone’s loss.

  • K

    Though vaccination is most certainly a very important part of prevention, I sadly learned and think it is important to inform the public that vaccination only offers protection against certain strains of this disease. My sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

  • Sue Burd

    My 16 year old son died from this disease in February, 2004. It is a very very fast progressing disease. Sometimes, as with my son, death occurs within hours of the first symptoms. It is rare, but deadly. I urge everyone to talk with their doctor about getting vaccinated. You can check out the CDC website for the specific recommendations about the vaccine. I wish my son had been vaccinated. My heart goes out to the families in NY who have been affected. You are not alone.

  • Olga Pasick

    I too am part of the National Meningitis Association because the same year Mike LaForgia contracted the disease, I lost my 13 year old son within 24 hours of first flu like symptoms. Our mission is to educate about the disease and the importance of vaccination. This simple vaccine could have saved my David.

  • Lynn

    As the President of the National Meningitis Association and as a parent who lost her 20 year old son to this same disease, I applaud Mike LaForgia for sharing his story. My heart goes out to all of the families affected by this outbreak. When my son was sick, I did not know that a safe vaccine could have saved his life. It is too late for my family, but I urge all families with 11-18 year olds, to make sure their children are vaccinated. There is more information on the National Meningitis Association Web site.

  • Diana

    My friend Cuthbert died from this in summer 2009. Please everyone take heed.

  • Debbie

    I had meningitis last year that started with a serious bout of H1N1. The meningitis developed with in a matter of days after getting really sick with H1N1.

    I had the pic line to administer constant round the clock antibiotics as well. Was in the hospital for nearly a month. Very scary

  • Katie

    Jme, clearly your statement is very uneducated. Do you know much about the severity of this illness or do you think it’s just a common no worry cold? Cause if you truly knew the severity of the illness or even had a loved one or yourself go through it I don’t think you would have the reaction you do, unless you truly are ignorant. Try looking into things more and not be so quit to put a comment on here.

  • cygon

    probably disseminated by people who are scared of being vaccinated

  • Tracy

    Our son was diagnosed with meningitis in 1996 while on a trip to Peru. Two weeks in the hospital in Peru then over a month at home here in the states. Pic line with antibiotics. Months to really feel better. I am a nurse and thought he would be dead by the time we got to Peru after getting the call about his condition. Death is often within 12 hours and it is possible to lose fingers, limbs, sight, hearing. It is a devastating illness. For me, one case is cause for alarm!

  • Jennifer McGee Sheremetta

    I survived this in 2004. If it hadnt been for my boyfriend flying into Maine from NY to check on me..I would be dead. I had a week stay in the hospital and a month stay at my parents home so they could make sure that I had my meds properly as I had a pic line that was inserted in the inside of my upper arm that went down into my chest and had to have meds inserted twice a day. This is not something I would wish even on my worst enemy.

    • Simboo

      You need to have a local BF. What good is he, if he can’t tend you in your hours of need. :-(

  • jme

    3 cases of this and the media already is calling it an outbreak. they must be in bed with the pharmaceutical companies

    • ak

      6 if you can read and hear

    • Kathleen

      If you ever had to sit by the bedside of someone stricken with the disease you wouldn’t be so flip about it. I lived the horror and 1 person stricken is 1 person too many.

    • http://jcap17.wordpress.com jcap17

      You see anyone here in this story calling this an outbreak? We specifically say it’s not an outbreak. Don’t create controversy when there isn’t any.

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