Meningitis death renews safety calls from doctors

meningitis colorful word on the wooden background

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Meningitis cases may be rare, but there are many instances in which the illness turns out to be deadly.

It happened last week when a 5-year-old boy in the Harrisburg area died from the serious illness.

“Meningitis is basically inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord,” Dr. Elizabeth Imboden, a pediatrician with WellSpan Health, said. “When you think of meningitis, it’s generally pretty scary.”

There are several different strains of meningitis, and although dauphin county officials say this case resulted from a less contagious form, it can still pose a serious threat.

“Some strains are more contagious than others,” Imboden said. “Some aren’t as easily spread and you really have to have direct close contact.”

Doctors recommend vaccinating children and other vulnerable groups who can be susceptible to meningitis. Some of the warning signs are like other ailments that can be prevalent in children.

“High fever, severe headache, vomiting, and lethargy,” Imboden said, listing off several warning signs. “Fortunately, most of the time those don’t mean meningitis, but if kids have those, particularly bad headache and neck pain, you do worry about meningitis.”

Some local doctors say they are expecting to get more questions about meningitis from parents wanting more guidance on how to protect their families.

“If there’s an outbreak or a case in a community, then that will raise concern, but in general, because it’s so uncommon, it’s not something we have a lot of people coming into the office asking about,” Imboden said.