Meningococcal disease case confirmed in Craig

Contagious bacteria that infects blood, fluid around brain strikes Craig toddler

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The Colorado Department of Health and Environment has confirmed that a Craig resident has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease.

Because of confidentiality issues, the name of the infected person could not be released, but friends of the family confirmed that Tanner Glaze, 1, was suffering from meningococcal disease, and was treated at the Denver Children's Hospital. The prognosis for recovery is good.

The Denver Children's Hospital would not comment.

Meningococcal disease occurs when the bacteria "neisseria meningitidis" infects the blood stream. This infection can move on to infect the fluids that surround the brain, in which case the disease is called meningitis.

Dr. Ken Gershman, manager of the communicable disease program for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's Disease Control Division said that while cases of this disease are rare, the bacteria which causes it is not.

"Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection where the bacteria infects the blood or fluids surrounding the brain. The bacteria is a fairly common one that lives in the back of people's noses and throats," Gershman said. "There are several different strains, like all bacteria, and a person's immune system will usually hold this bacteria in check. But, there is the rare event when the bacteria will break out and invade the blood stream."

One in every 100,000 people per year will develop meningococcal disease from the bacteria they carry with them or are exposed to. That translates to about 40 cases a year in Colorado.

"We expect these sporadic cases to appear, that these infections will occur, but will be spread out over time and geography. There's no reason to believe this case is not one of the 40 expected each year," he said. "We don't get alarmed over a case like this. We become alarmed when these cases appear in clusters; that's when the infections become more complex and worrisome."

This type of infection tends to mostly occur in very young children and elderly people. Smokers are more susceptible, because smoking damages the nose and throat tissue, making it easier for the bacteria to enter the blood stream. Another bacterial infection, a cold for example, could tax the immune system enough so the meningococcus bacteria could become active. There are cases in which an extremely virulent or aggressive strain will strike a perfectly healthy person of any age and kill them in a matter of hours, but these instances are extremely rare.

"Meningococcal disease is contagious, but it is not highly contagious. Highly contagious diseases are the measles, the flu; diseases where only a small amount of contact is necessary to infect someone," Gershman said. "With meningococcal disease, it takes direct contact with the infected person's saliva to be exposed, and even then there is a only a small chance of infection."

When of case of this disease is discovered, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to a small number of people with a high amount of contact with the ill person, in most cases family members. This precautionary measure can also cover girlfriends and boyfriends, health care workers, and classmates from school or day care.

"The measures prescribed as a precaution can vary, depending on how the person presents the symptoms. How the illness can proceed can be quite variable," he said. "This is a rare, sporadic sickness, just one of many things that are serious infections that affect kids.

"No one would be faulted for calling their doctor, and asking 'should I bring my child in?' The doctor asks some questions, makes a determination, and they go from there," Gershman said. "That's something moms and pediatricians go through all the time, it's part of raising a child."

Tanner and his mother, Sheila Glaze, returned to Craig Tuesday evening. Tanner is "back to his old self," his mother said, and will be seeing the doctor for another check up in three days.

Anyone interested in making a donation toward Tanner's medical costs should contact the Bank of Colorado, or find one of the donation cans at various stores throughout Craig.

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