Two Contract Meningitis in NYC Hospital

By Katy Mantyk
Katy Mantyk
Katy Mantyk
September 30, 2008 Updated: September 30, 2008

NEW YORK—Two women contracted meningitis in the Staten Island University Hospital while giving birth. The women’s spinal fluid became infected after delivery. According to the Associated Press, the two babies are healthy, but the mothers were immediately put into isolation for treatment, were they are recovering.

“We expect them to go home tomorrow with their babies,” Arlene Rybach, spokesperson at the Staten Island University Hospital said on Monday.

The State Department of Health is currently conducting a joint investigation with the hospital into the cases, and the cause of the infection.  Results are expected to take as long as two weeks before the details can be released.

There have been no additional reports of infection from the hospital.
“We wouldn’t usually see two cases (of meningitis) together, its uncommon.” said Claire Postisil, Spokeswomen for NY State Department of Health.

Meningitis is a very serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection.  It is usually spread through respiratory and throat secretions from an infected person, such as by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing personal items, such as cups or drink bottles.  It is not spread through casual contact or breathing air where an infected person has been.

It can spread quickly through the body, infecting fluid around the brain and spinal cord, as well as damaging other organs. Even with rapid treatment, the disease can kill an otherwise healthy young person in less than 48 hours.

The fact that the hospital is a university training facility might have heightened the risk of spreading the disease. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, adolescents and young adults are particularly at risk of contracting meningitis because of their lifestyles.  Hanging out in large groups for long periods of time, sharing cigarettes, sharing utensils, drinking out of the same container, excessive alcohol consumption and irregular sleep are all causes of transmission.
 
As for the spread of infections in hospitals, the NY state health department is implementing a public surveillance system.

“There are reports of infections transmitted in hospital settings… We’re developing a data system where hospitals report on nosocomial (infections caught in hospital) cases. They’re then made public,” explained Postisil.

Nosocomial infections contributed to 88,000 deaths in the U.S. in 1995.

Katy Mantyk