Meningitis outbreak continues in Washoe, Lassen counties

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RENO, Nev., (KOLO) - Outbreaks of viral meningitis continue here in Washoe County and in Susanville.

In Susanville where the outbreak was initially traced to the high school football team and forced the temporary closure of the school as well as the Community College, public health officials say they've had 50 possible cases reported.

Of those, 22 are suspected, 18 are clinically diagnosed, 16 of which are lab confirmed. Another 10 have been ruled out.

Here in Washoe County the count is now 36 cases.

Viral meningitis can be caused by a number of different viruses. In this case, there's initial evidence the outbreak is being caused by one particular enterovirus known as eco30.

"We've got some evidence suggesting eco30 here," says Washoe County Epidemiologist Dr. Randall Todd. "They've got lab evidence suggesting eco30 there. What we want to know is at the molecular level is this the same virus."

That would be a first step toward finding a common source for the outbreaks.

"It's more likely if they are the same molecularly there is a common source."

Unlike the Lassen County outbreak there appears to be no geographic hot spot here. No school, for instance, with a number of cases.

A large percentage however, are children.

"Seventy two percent of the cases were in children," says Dr. Todd. "Fifty-three percent were in children that are considered school age, between the ages of 5 and 17, 67% of our cases were male."

Those numbers are fairly typical of an outbreak of viral meningitis, an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and the spinal cord.

Viral meningitis is less serious than bacterial meningitis. There's no treatment other than for symptoms which include a fever and headaches.

The advice for avoiding it remains the same. Don't share anything you're going to put in your mouth--a particular note of caution with Halloween and the other holidays coming up.

Wash your hands often, keep common surfaces clean, and if you don't feel right see a doctor don't spread it.