KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A worker at a military-run child-care center at Bitburg Air Base was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis this week, forcing a dozen children to receive antibiotics.

The worker was diagnosed with the contagious disease on Monday after going to the hospital on Sunday, said Capt. Tom Crosson, a spokesman for nearby Spangdahlem Air Base.

An Air Force public health officer began notifying the parents of children who attend Bitburg’s Child Development Center on Monday evening.

Children that were in direct contact with the male worker were encouraged to go to the hospital immediately and get medication.

Health officials said children who did not come in contact with the worker were at low risk but told parents that they could go to the emergency room or see their family practice doctor for treatment.

Some parents were notified by phone about the incident, while others were told in person.

So far, none of the children has been diagnosed with the disease. About 150 children regularly attend the center at Bitburg, which is home to airmen who work at Spangdahlem. The bases are about 10 miles apart.

The center was never shut down and the employee, whose name was not released because of privacy considerations, will be allowed to return to work as soon as he recovers and doctors clear him to go back, Crosson said. He was treated and released from the hospital.

Meningitis is an infection of spinal cord fluid and fluid that surrounds the brain, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

It is caused by a viral or bacterial infection and can be contagious. Bacteria that cause meningitis can be passed by such things as coughing or kissing, but it cannot be spread by casual contact, according to the CDC. For example, a person cannot catch the disease simply by breathing the same air as someone who has meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis, if not treated quickly, can cause brain damage or hearing problems.

Maj. Mark Duffy, the Public Health Flight commander at Spangdahlem, said he would continue to monitor the situation and see if any additional cases of meningitis appear.

Neither base has had a case of meningitis before.

“It’s a sporadic disease,” Duffy said.

He said parents were notified soon after public health officials were notified of the man’s diagnosis.

“We got the information out as soon as we had that information,” Duffy said.

Signs of meningitis

Symptoms of meningitis, or meningococcal disease, include high fever, headache and a stiff neck for people older than 2 years. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion and drowsiness also can be signs.

It is important to catch the disease early.

Antibiotics are effective if taken soon after the disease develops.

Antibiotic treatment can reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to below 15 percent for most common types of bacterial meningitis.

Source: national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site

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