Meningitis Outbreak Near Houston

An Iraqi policeman stands guard during a Good Friday service in the Chaldean church in central Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 6, 2007.
AP Photo/Hadi Mizban
Two more cases of spinal meningitis were confirmed in suburban Houston, bringing to at least 18 the number of cases in the area since Oct. 9, health officials said. Two have died of the disease this month.

CBS affiliate KHOU reports the new cases bring to 34 the number of confirmed cases in the area.

The meningitis outbreak has added to concerns raised late last year about Houston's potential for epidemic as the city with the lowest vaccination rate in the nation. Officials say the city is already vulnerable to disease because of its role as a major port and airline hub.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and around the brain that causes swelling of tissues that surround the brain. There are two main kinds: viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis.

Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, drowsiness confusion, nausea, vomiting and seizures.

Viral meningitis is the more common and less serious type. It can be caused by one of several viruses.

Viral meningitis is passed by contact with bodily fluids. It is diagnosed through tests of spinal fluid. It is not treated with any specific medication; usually, patients get better after 7-10 days of bed rest. There is no vaccine for viral meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is rarer and deadlier. It can be caused by several different kinds of bacteria and can be passed through certain bodily secretions.

It is diagnosed by tests of the spinal fluid, and can be treated with antibiotics. Starting treatment quickly greatly reduces the chances of dying. There are vaccines for certain strains of bacteria that cause meningitis. About 17,500 cases of the disease occur each year.

Meningitis is a bacterial illness that attacks the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, intense headache, stiff neck and nausea.

On Thursday, the CDC declared a meningitis outbreak in Montgomery County, just north of Houston, where 11 cases have been reported.

The two new cases reported during the weekend were in Fort Bend County, in suburban southwest Houston.

One case nvolved an eighth-grade student at Lamar Junior High School who was taken to the emergency room after developing symptoms of the disease.

A 13-year-old boy and a 56-year-old woman in the Houston area have died of the disease in the past two weeks.

More than 8,000 people lined up Saturday outside New Caney Middle School in Porter, 25 miles north of Houston, for vaccinations.

The Texas Department of Health recommended vaccines for students from that school district, where three cases had been confirmed. The state is vaccinating only those aged 2 to 24.

Residents in the New Caney district can still receive vaccine at local clinics Monday, officials said.

The Montgomery County Health Department in Conroe will also be administering the vaccine.

Another immunization program is set this week for the 3,600 students in the Humble school district in northeast Harris County, where five cases have been reported.

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