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Health advisory issued for rise in meningococcal disease cases

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Health officials are warning about a nationwide rise in cases of meningococcal disease — including in Chicago.

The federal Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention issued a health advisory in response to the recent rise in cases across the country.

There have been eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease reported in Chicago so far this year, the Chicago Department of Public Health said. The disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection associated with infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord and bloodstream.

All of the individuals had bloodstream infections — four died of the disease, health officials said.

“We are monitoring this situation very closely and so far have identified no common exposure among Chicago cases,” said CDPH commissioner Olusimbo Ige. “While cases remain very rare, we want people to be aware because the outcomes can be so severe. As with other illnesses such as COVID-19 and measles, keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best protection against meningococcal disease.”

Seven cases were reported last year, but only one to three were reported between 2017 and 2022.

Meningococcal disease can transmitted in the air or through saliva, but it is not as contagious as the measles, flu or COVID-19, health officials said.

Symptoms are similar to those of the flu but tend to worsen rapidly. Symptoms include fever and chills, fatigue, vomiting, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing and diarrhea.

Children between the ages of 11 and 12 should receive a first dose of the required meningococcal vaccine. A second shot should be given at 16.

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