Thursday, 4:30 PM
Three bacterial meningitis cases reported in Mass
By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
Three young Massachusetts children are recovering from bouts of bacterial meningitis, and disease specialists are investigating whether a fourth child is stricken with the potentially lethal illness, state health authorities said this morning.
The patients include 1-year-old twins in Lowell and a 3-year-old from Whitinsville, said Donna Rheaume, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, who added that all three children either have been released from the hospital or are expected to be soon.
The illnesses of the twins and the 3-year-old do not appear to be related, Rheaume said. "And there's no connection to the situation last week in Rhode Island," she said. "We're confident there's no connection."
More than 20,000 school students in three Rhode Island communities were kept home last week after several cases of meningitis and encephalitis were identified there.
Massachusetts health authorities are investigating a report of an additional possible meningitis case in New Bedford, Rheaume said.
Last year, Massachusetts recorded 21 cases of bacterial meningitis; in 2004, 36 were reported and in 2005, 29.
Patients with meningitis experience an infection in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a virus or bacterium, and the bacterial form is typically far more severe, potentially resulting in brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability, or even death. Symptoms include high fever, headache, and stiff neck.