Meningococcal Disease and Contact Tracing

Friday, January 23, 2015 - 4:54pm

Public Health is investigating a case of meningococcal meningitis. Public Health takes cases of meningococcal meningitis seriously. We are currently identifying people who may have been exposed and contacting them. This is called contact tracing. Below is information on how contact tracing works.

What is contact tracing?

  • In general, when an individual gets sick with a contagious illness, contact tracing identifies who the sick person may have exposed to his/her illness. People who were exposed may be prescribed medication (antibiotic prophylaxis) to stop them from developing the illness.
  • Meningococcal meningitis is hard to get. It’s not spread by sitting next to a sick person or shaking his/her hand. You can only get the disease through the mucus and saliva of a sick person.
  • When Public Health does contact tracing for meningococcal meningitis they are looking for people who may have been exposed to the sick person’s mucus and saliva. These people are called “close contacts.”

When it comes to meningococcal disease, who is a close contact?

  • People who live in the same house
  • People who shared sleeping arrangements with the sick person (e.g. sleepovers, tents, bunk beds)
  • People who came in contact with the saliva or mucus) of the sick person (i.e. by  kissing,  or sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes,  eating utensils or cigarettes)

What is antibiotic prophylaxis?

  • The medication prescribed to someone to prevent them from developing a disease.

Who gets antibiotic prophylaxis?

In the case of meningococcal meningitis, close contacts are given medication to prevent from developing the disease. These are:

  • People who live in the same house
  • People who shared sleeping arrangements with the sick person (e.g. sleepovers in the same room, tents, bunk beds)
  • People who came in contact with the saliva or mucus of the sick person (i.e.  by kissing,  or sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils or cigarettes)

I’m the loved one of someone identified as a close contact. Do I need antibiotics?

  • No. If your loved one or family member was identified as a close contact and is receiving preventative antibiotics, you are not at risk of becoming sick.

What are the symptoms of  meningococcal meningitis?

  • Symptoms include changes in level of alertness, fever, stiff neck, a rash, or any illness that seems more serious than usual. Seek medical attention immediately if anyone becomes ill with any of these symptoms.

If you are concerned that you're a close contact and have not been contacted by Public Health, call the intake line: 902-481-5824

A fact sheet for meningococcal disease can be found here.