Meningococcal Disease Death Reported in San Diego


A man died from meningococcal disease and a baby has recovered from it after a recent hospitalization the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced today.

The 39-year-old man died earlier this week, while the one-year-old child was hospitalized late last month because of meningococcal disease. The cases are not related to each other and all close contacts of both people have been identified to provide preventive antibiotic treatment. The general public was not at an increased risk for exposure from these individuals.

The number of reported cases each year in San Diego ranged between four and 14 in the last six years. The cases announced by HHSA today are the only ones reported to date in the county in 2013. Last year, there were eight meningococcal disease cases.

HHSA is working closely with federal, state, and Baja California health officials to determine if these two cases may be linked to an unexpected increase of meningococcal disease cases occurring in Tijuana this year. Seventeen cases of the bacterial disease have been confirmed in Tijuana since January 4, including five deaths.

“While meningococcal disease can be serious and deadly, it is not spread through casual contact. The risk to persons who are not in close, direct contact with an infected individual is minimal,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

There are no changes in routine health recommendations for those who are travelling to Tijuana. Individuals who experience symptoms should seek medical care promptly. Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone with potential exposure who develops any of these symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider or emergency room for  evaluation of possible meningococcal disease.

The bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes, or water bottles. It can also be spread by kissing, smoking and living in close quarters.The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days. Individuals who had close contact with the patient should receive antibiotics to prevent any possible infection. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for those who were not in close contact with the infected people, but they should be aware of possible symptoms and make sure they have received the recommended vaccination against the disease.

A vaccine is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease and is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age. Families are encouraged to make sure their pre-teen and adolescent children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines, including meningococcal vaccine. To find out more information about this vaccine-preventable disease, please visit

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact