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Gregg County officials say no local cases of meningitis, pertussis

By Angela Ward
Oct. 17, 2012 at 10 p.m.

There have been no new cases of meningitis or pertussis in Gregg County during October, health officials said Tuesday.

Bacterial meningitis is the most severe form of the disease, said Bettie Clark with the county health department. Viral meningitis and fungal meningitis are less-deadly forms.

"We absolutely do not have any cases of bacterial meningitis in Gregg County," Clark said. "I know that for a fact. I'm not aware of any cases of viral or fungal meningitis, but it's possible those wouldn't have been reported to me."

Russell Hopkins, director of public health and emergency preparedness for northeast Texas, confirmed that there had been no cases of fungal or bacterial meningitis in Gregg County during the past two months. There were four cases of viral meningitis reported during September, but none so far in October. Viral meningitis is more common, but bacterial meningitis is more serious.

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges. It is usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection, although in rare cases it can be the result of a physical injury or a reaction to certain drugs. Bacterial and viral meningitis are contagious, but fungal meningitis is not.

Gregg County last experienced a large-scale outbreak of meningitis in the mid-1990s. A local teenager died of the disease in in May of 2010, but that was an isolated incident in which no other cases were reported.

One case of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, was reported in Gregg County in September, Clark said, but there have been no new cases this month.

A recent nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis, including a case in Central Texas, has been linked to steroid shots for back pain. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.

So far, the now-recalled tainted steroids shots have sickened at least 184 people in 12 states, causing 14 deaths.

<em>- The Associated Press contributed to this story.,</em>



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