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CDC Studies Detroit Meningitis Cases

October 9, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ Federal health experts have been called in to study a cluster of meningitis cases, including three deaths in the Detroit area.

Three suburban Detroit children have died of bacterial meningitis since Sept. 28, and a 10-year-old and a 3-month-old remained hospitalized with the illness Monday. The infant was in critical condition.

The cases appear unrelated, but tests were being conducted with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Michigan Department of Community Health spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher.

According to department figures, the number of bacterial meningitis cases statewide is about the same now as last year _ 145 so far this year, 195 last year. Health officials have repeatedly said the cases don’t amount to an epidemic.

It is not unusual for meningitis cases to occur in the fall when school starts, said Thomas Kalkofen, director of the Macomb County Health Department.

``The number of cases are what we expect to get,″ Kalkofen told The Detroit News. ``The fact there have been fatalities is not what we expect to get.″

The three children who died _ one age 6 and two age 11 _ were all exposed to the pneumococcal bacteria that leads to meningitis, which causes swelling around the brain and spinal cord, said Dorine Berriel-Cass, an infection control practitioner at St. John Hospital. Bacterial meningitis is considered more severe than viral meningitis and can result in brain damage, hearing loss and learning disability.

People come into contact with the bacteria that causes meningitis daily, but the immune system usually fights it, Berriel-Cass said. The bacteria is carried in nose and throat fluids and can be transmitted by coughing or sneezing directly in the face of others, kissing on the mouth or sharing eating utensils and drinking cups.

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On the Net:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo

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