One Soldier Dead of Meningitis another Seriously Ill

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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- One soldier is dead of meningitis at Fort Leonard Wood and a second is "very seriously ill," according to officials at the Army base in southern Missouri.

Fort Leonard Wood officials announced the cases in a news release Sunday but released few details and did not identify either infected soldier. A media spokesman at the base on Monday said there was no additional information other than what was in the release.

Meningitis, an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain, kills about 300 people in the U.S. each year.

Both case at Fort Leonard Wood involved non-contagious forms of meningitis, authorities said. The two soldiers were members of the same unit, but no connection has been found between the cases.

"Although difficult to comprehend, all clinical data show these cases are unrelated and purely coincidental," Lt. Col. John Lowery, deputy commander for clinical services at Fort Leonard Wood, said in a statement.

The first soldier died after being diagnosed on Feb. 5. The second soldier is a 28-year-old in basic training who was diagnosed Friday with a strep pneumonia infection leading to meningitis. The base said that soldier is "very seriously ill" but in stable condition at St. John's Hospital in Springfield.

Brian Quinn of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said he was not familiar with the Fort Leonard Wood cases.

Authorities say that even though the illnesses were non-contagious forms, they are "heightening awareness" of preventive measures. Soldiers are being reminded to wash their hands, avoid sharing utensils and to use proper cough etiquette and personal hygiene.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Surgeon General's office and the Army Medical Command are reviewing the Fort Leonard Wood cases.

Elsewhere, three students at the University of Pennsylvania were improving after contracting meningitis this month. Penn canceled all official university and student-sponsored parties over the weekend, and more than 2,100 students have received antibiotics as a precaution.

The CDC said meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, the CDC said.

Bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability or death. Symptoms include high fever, headache and a stiff neck, and can also include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness. It is treated with antibiotics. The CDC says early diagnosis is vital.

Some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious, spread through exchange of throat secretions, but the CDC said none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are spread through casual contact.


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