DOH-Davao confirms first meningococcemia

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 Sept) – Davao City has recorded its first case of meningococcemia after the result of the confirmatory test on the blood sample of a four-year-old boy, who died at the Brokenshire Hospital Integrated Health Ministries, Inc. last Friday, tested positive for meningococcal bacteria.

Department of Health (DOH)-Davao regional director Annabelle Yumang said in a press conference at the regional office on Tuesday that the agency is continuously gathering information from places that the deceased patient had visited to know the people who may have come into direct contact with him.

But she said that so far, none of those people have manifested any sign or symptoms that are similar to the case definition of meningococcemia but assured the public that the agency will continue the surveillance and monitoring for 10 days after their last exposure to the patient.

Meningococcemia is an infection caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, the same type of bacteria that can cause meningitis. It is reportedly potentially life threatening and contagious that can “spread from person to person via respiratory secretions,” like through sneezing and coughing.

Yumang said the city had 13 suspected cases of meningococcemia this year, three of them died.

Yumang said post-exposure prophylaxis was immediately administered to the pupils and teachers of a pre-school where the boy studied, family members, and emergency room staff of the hospital.

“A team from the department visited the school and met with teachers and parents of other children to alleviate fears and ensure that they have correct information about the disease,” she said.

She told the public that there is no need to panic as she explained that the bacteria causing the meningococcal disease is not easily transmitted. A briefer released by DOH-Davao said bacteria can spread from one person to another through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing foods, drinks, and utensils.

Dr. Jack Estuart, attending physician of the boy, said the patient was brought by his parents to the hospital at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The patient, who had cough for a week, died six hours later.

He said the parents of the patient had already seen the signs and symptoms similar to the case definition of meningococcemia in the patient prior to his confinement at the hospital.

Dr. Allyne Aguelo, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, explained that the risk factors of a meningococcal disease was a previous upper respiratory tract infection, “probably a viral infection.”

“If you see viral infection in the respiratory area, especially if the kid is immunocompromised, then the child should be considered immuno compromised – immune system not very good for five years old below,” she said.

“The natural reservoir of this bacteria is our nasal pharynx – in our nose. It’s either it’s just there or it can cause disease. There are risk factors triggering the bacteria to become invasive. For this particular patient, he had a previous viral infection and then he acquired meningococcemia,” she said.

Estuart added the disease is “not something that is dreadful.”

“The bacteria can be a normal inhabitant of our noses but for some mysterious reason and one reason was that the host, the patient, must have experienced a decrease in its immunity – the resistance against the disease decreased – because maybe of a prior viral infection,” he added.

He said the bacteria would normally overwhelm the body’s defenses when immunity is low.

“It had an opportunity to become invasive that can cause the disease. But Meningococcus generally resides silently in the noses of human beings but that human being for whatever reason came down with another illness that meningococcus became invasive,” Estuart added.

He said it is business as usual at the Broken shire after it conducted protocols to sanitize the hospital. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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