CDC Issues Alert on a Rare Infection

Strain of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria is hitting people 30 to 60 the hardest
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2024 12:25 PM CDT
CDC Issues Alert on a Rare Infection
This microscope photo shows five colonies of Group-B Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.   (Dr. Brodsky/CDC via AP)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert Thursday urging doctors to look out for a bacterial infection that is rare, but on the rise. The CDC said infections are being caused by a strain of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, CNN reports. Sickness caused by the bacteria is known as meningococcal disease—but unlike typical infections, most patients aren't showing symptoms of meningitis, which include headaches, a stiff neck, and aversion to light. Instead, 64% of those infected with ST-1466 had bloodstream infections, with symptoms including cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, and, in later stages, a dark purple rash, per the CDC. Another 4% had infected joints, known as septic arthritis.

Symptoms that both bloodstream infections and meningitis have in common include fever and vomiting. "While initial symptoms of meningococcal disease can at first be non-specific, they worsen rapidly, and the disease can become life-threatening within hours," the CDC said. The agency warned that immediate antibiotic treatment is critical for people with meningococcal disease and "survivors may experience long-term effects such as deafness or amputations of the extremities," Live Science reports. Around 10% to 15% of infected people die. The CDC said 422 cases of invasive meningococcal disease were reported in the US last year, the most since 2014, and this year's total is likely to be higher.

The CDC said the ST-1466 strain, unusually, is hitting people 30 to 60 years old the hardest. That group accounted for 65% of cases. It is also disproportionately affecting Black people, who accounted for 63% of cases. Some 15% of the infections were in people with HIV. The CDC said all 11- to 12 year-olds should be vaccinated for meningococcal disease, with a booster at 16. People at increased risk, including those with HIV, should have "booster doses every 3–5 years, depending on age," the CDC said.
(More infection stories.)

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