US Officials Warn of Increase in Bacterial Illnesses That Could Be Deadly

    08 April 2024

    United States health officials are warning of an increase in rare bacterial illnesses that can lead to meningitis. It is a serious and often deadly disease in which an outside barrier of the brain or related tissues becomes infected and swollen.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning on March 28 about the increase in one kind of invasive "meningococcal disease" called serogroup Y.

    Last year, 422 cases of it were reported in the U.S. — the most in a year since 2014. So far this year, 143 cases have been reported. That means infections are on their way to go above 2023 numbers, the CDC said.

    FILE - This 1966 microscope photo shows five colonies of Group-B Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. (Dr. Brodsky/CDC via AP)
    FILE - This 1966 microscope photo shows five colonies of Group-B Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. (Dr. Brodsky/CDC via AP)

    Most of the cases last year did not involve meningitis, though at least 17 died. The cases were more common in adults ages 30 to 60, in Black people and those who have HIV, the CDC said.

    HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS, a serious disease that can destroy the body's natural defense system.

    The infection caused by meningococcal disease can lead to symptoms that may include high body temperature, head and upper body pain, nausea, and throwing up

    The bacteria can also cause an infection in the blood system. That infection could bring cold, tiredness, cold hands and feet, quick breathing, diarrhea, or discoloration of the skin.

    The infection can be treated with medications like antibiotics. But treatment must be quick to be successful. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of infected people die. And survivors sometimes lose the ability to hear or body parts must be surgically removed

    There also are vaccines against meningococcal disease.

    Officials suggest that all children should get a "meningococcal conjugate vaccine" around the age of 11. Since vaccine protection weakens over time, the CDC also suggests a second shot at age 16.

    The CDC also suggests the shots for people at higher risk. Higher-risk individuals might include those who live where an outbreak is taking place or those with HIV infection or other kinds of health conditions.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    Mike Stobbe reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    swell – v. to become larger than normal

    symptoms – n. a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present

    nausea – n. the feeling you have in your stomach when you think you are going to vomit

    diarrhea – n. an illness that causes you to pass waste from your body very frequently and in liquid rather than solid form