Third meningococcal case confirmed in Germany
The 23-year-old wife of a 1st Infantry Division soldier has become the third American in Germany in four days to be stricken with a meningococcal disease, U.S. military officials confirmed Thursday.
Kimberly Wesson was listed in critical condition Thursday in a German hospital in Schweinfurt, said Army Maj. Bill Coppernoll, spokesman for the 1st ID. Wesson was admitted on Wednesday, he added.
One source said Wesson was diagnosed with meningitis.
“I can’t confirm it is meningitis, but from what I’ve heard it sounds like meningitis,” said Army Lt. Col. William Corr, the preventive medicine consultant for the European Regional Medical Command.
Test results that would identify the particular form and type were expected to be available Thursday night, Corr said.
Meningitis is one of two forms of meningococcal disease. Symptoms associated with meningitis include fever, headaches, stiff neck, nausea and drowsiness, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation. In this form, bacterial toxins can lead to inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, or both.
In the other two cases, the individuals had the more deadly form of meningococcal disease, called septicaemia, which, in short, is a severe blood infection. Both Army Pvt. Dave Robbins and Air Force civilian Lindsey Ferris died. Although their deaths came a day apart — Robbins on Saturday and Ferris on Sunday — each apparently succumbed to a different type, or strand, of septicaemia.
“At this time,” Corr said, “we know the two deaths are unrelated.”
As was the case earlier this week in Kitzingen and Spangdahlem, military health officials descended on Schweinfurt to meet with members of the community. The team held briefings, disseminated information, answered questions and provided antibiotics to those who may have been exposed to Wesson for an extended period, typically four hours or longer.
Of primary concern Thursday was the staff of the Schweinfurt commissary, where Wesson works as a cashier, Coppernoll said. Soldiers and community leaders also were briefed.
Wesson and her husband, a soldier in the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, live in Askren Manor, the main housing area for the Schweinfurt military community. Information on meningococcal is available to residents, but Amy Stover, a Würzburg Army hospital spokeswoman, said if they or anyone else in the community has questions about the disease a hot line has been set up. The phone number is: 0931-804-3877.
U.S. Army Europe has also set up a Web site — www.hqusareur.army.mil/medalert/ — to help answer questions.
On average in Germany, there are between 800 and 900 cases of meningococcal disease annually, according to Ulrich Vogel, a professor of infectious disease at a Würzburg institute that tracks meningococcal cases. The percentage of cases that lead to death ranges from 8 percent to 10 percent, said Vogel, noting the rate is comparable to the U.S.
Meningococcal spreads when a person comes in contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions. They might drink from the same glass or kiss or spend a lot of time together in close quarters. Vogel said most cases usually occur in the first quarter of the year, when people spend more time indoors.