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New York: Severe Meningitis Death

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  • New York: Severe Meningitis Death

    Unlikely meningitis passed on

    By Linda Ober / The Citizen
    Friday, February 10, 2006 10:26 AM EST
    <TABLE class=photo-bdr cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top></TD></TR><TR><TD class=cutline vAlign=top></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Cayuga County health officials want residents to know the type of meningitis that caused the death of a Victory woman Tuesday is a severe disease - but one that is rare and not very contagious.

    “There's no need for people to be especially concerned (that they will contract the disease),” said Kathleen Cuddy, deputy director of health services for the Cayuga County Health Department. “Unlike some forms of meningitis, this one is not highly contagious.”

    Emergency personnel found Anna J. Gunton, 52, unconscious at her home Monday afternoon. She was pronounced dead at University Hospital Tuesday evening.

    State and local police investigated Gunton's death after the ambulance crew raised concerns about the nature of her injuries.

    On Wednesday, the Onondaga County medical examiner attributed the cause of death to bacterial meningitis, an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds one's brain.

    A media release from Cayuga County Sheriff Rob Outhouse said that the injuries Gunton sustained were likely the result of a state of delirium caused by the disease.

    <TABLE class=clear-table cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top><!-- AdSys ad not found for news/local_news:middle --></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>The type of meningitis Gunton suffered from was pneumococcal meningitis, Cuddy said, which is caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and is one of several bacterial strains of the disease.

    While bacterial meningitis can be fatal or lead to brain damage if not immediately treated, there is also a viral form that is less dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Both kinds of meningitis are spread by close contact such as kissing, coughing and sneezing, but neither is air-borne, said Dr. Phillip Gioia, medical consultant to the county health department.

    Monday afternoon, emergency personnel responded to Gunton's residence at 2141 Brandt Road after a man called to report an unconscious female bleeding from her mouth.

    <TABLE class=photo-bdr cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top></TD></TR><TR><TD class=cutline vAlign=top></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Outhouse said that the ambulance crew, fire department and state and county investigators who were on scene have all been notified of the meningitis case. In all circumstance, investigators wear protective equipment, such as gloves, footwear and protective suits, when collecting evidence in order to reduce the chances of contamination to the evidence or person, Outhouse said.

    “The sergeant most involved in evidence collection is taking close examination of his condition,” he added.

    Gioia said that the viral forms of meningitis are often more contagious than the bacterial strains.

    It's unlikely that those who came into contact with Gunton - including those who worked with her at Marshall's on Grant Avenue in Auburn - will develop meningitis, Gioia said, noting the bacteria will rarely cause significant disease even if it is spread.

    Still, he added, it's important for those who were around Gunton to monitor their health.

    “It's always a good idea to be vigilant of a stiff neck or bleeding of skin,” Gioia said, noting that individuals need to immediately seek medical care in such instances.

    Gioia said that though meningitis usually strikes infants or the elderly and is not common for a 52-year-old woman, the germs are always around, as the bacteria is latent in some individuals.

    Germs also like to take advantage of weaknesses in the immune system, he said. The bacteria could have gotten into Gunton's throat, after which time Gunton might have contracted the flu or other viral illness, thereby decreasing her defenses, he said.

    Most meningitis strains, including pneumococcal, have vaccines available. Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for infants and those 60 and older, as well as people who have had pneumonia or have suffered frequent respiratory infections, Gioia said.
    Last edited by DB; February 11, 2006, 06:12 PM.