NH DHHS Annuonces The Death of Merrimack County Resident from Suspected Meningococcal Disease

Concord, NH – The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is announcing the recent death of an 18-year-old female from suspected meningococcal disease. The patient died Monday at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center from meningitis with multi-organ failure.

“While we strongly suspect meningococcal disease in this case, we may never know this definitively,” said Director of Public Health Dr. José Montero. “We have been working with the schools she attended and have not identified any students or staff who were exposed. Our thoughts are with the family of this young woman and her community during this difficult time.”

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding a person’s spinal cord and brain that can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Meningococcal meningitis is meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. The common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis are high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that develop rapidly within 2 days. These symptoms may be absent in children younger than 12 years, especially in infants in whom the main presentation could be irritability or sleepiness. The bacteria causes illness sporadically, either in isolated cases or epidemics. It is, however, not highly contagious but can be transmitted through exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, such as kissing and sharing utensils and cigarettes. The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. There are on average 3 to 5 cases of meningococcal disease identified each year in New Hampshire.

For more information about meningococcal disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov, the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov, or call the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496.