2nd ID soldier’s death sparks precautions, testing for meningitis in South Korea
January 16, 2008
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — A 2nd Infantry Division soldier died Saturday of meningitis-like symptoms, prompting medical treatment for everyone in close contact with him, 2nd ID officials said Monday.
Pvt. Jason L. Williams, 19, of Colorado, was pronounced dead after being airlifted to the 121st Combat Support Hospital at Yongsan Garrison.
Williams is the second soldier from the 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment to die within the past month and the third 2nd ID solider to die since December, each from a different cause.
Williams displayed symptoms consistent with meningitis, though the autopsy results were not yet available.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid surrounding the brain and spine due to a bacterial infection or virus, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.
The time between contracting meningitis and displaying symptoms ranges from two to 10 days but is more typically three to four days, according to literature from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the 18th Medical Command.
Primary symptoms include a high fever, neck stiffness and headache. They may also include vomiting, disorientation and light sensitivity.
Williams first visited the Camp Casey medical clinic Saturday, a 2nd ID spokeswoman said.
He was airlifted to Yongsan Garrison and died the same day, officials said.
Ten members of Williams’ unit and 33 health care providers from Camp Casey and Yongsan Garrison received antibiotics after coming into contact with Williams, the spokeswoman said.
Military personnel receive a meningococcal vaccination before deploying to Iraq and other locales, which affords some protection against meningitis.
“Like most vaccines, it protects against the most common causes,” said 2nd ID division surgeon Dr. (Lt. Col.) Myron McDaniels.
But there are other agents, such as rarer viruses, that can cause meningitis and aren’t covered by the vaccine, McDaniels said.
McDaniels could not address Williams’ case specifically until an autopsy was completed.
Officials from Williams’ battalion were unavailable for comment Monday.
In a news release, Maj. Gen. John Morgan III, 2nd ID commander, wished his condolences to Williams’ family and friends.
Meningitis used to affect mainly children under 5 years old. But because of the prevalence of effective childhood vaccines, meningitis now occurs most among young people between ages 15 and 24, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A memorial for Williams was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, 11 a.m. at Crusader Gym on Camp Casey in Dongducheon.
How it spreads
Some forms of bacterial meningitis are spread through bodily fluid exchange, which can include kissing and coughing.None of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu. They are not spread by breathing air shared by an infected person.People who have had close contact with an ill patient for four hours or more during the 10 days prior to onset of the sickness should receive antibiotic treatment.Sources: 18th Medical Command, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention