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    Pinellas man dies of contagious disease

    The county has five to six cases on average of meningococcal disease per year, a health official says.

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 6, 2002


    A Pinellas County man died this week of meningococcal disease, a contagious ailment caused by the same bacteria that produce a more deadly form of meningitis.

    The name, age and hometown of the man were not released Friday by the Pinellas County Health Department. Medical epidemiologist Patricia Ryder said she could not say what day the man died.

    "A single case is not something that would cause us any kind of alarm for the general public," Ryder said.

    The bacteria are spread through close contact. Ryder said people who have been in close contact with the man -- sharing drinks or cigarettes, for example -- were treated with antibiotics as a precaution.

    Ryder said the man worked in another county.

    It is not unusual, she said, to have five or six cases of the disease reported in Pinellas County each year.

    The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease can cause a blood infection called meningococcemia, and meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal column. Up to 10 percent of the general population carries the bacteria in the nose and throat without becoming sick.

    Symptoms of meningococcal disease include a high fever, headache and a stiff neck and can begin within several hours or one to two days after infection.

    In the United States, about one to three cases occur per 100,000 people each year. It is usually treated successfully with antibiotics. But 10 percent to 13 percent of the people who get the disease die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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