The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is “still in the very early stages” of identifying the cause of viral meningitis, and it has already found cases in 21 countries. Of those 21, none have been found in the United States, said Dr. Elizabeth Konkel, director of epidemiology at the CDC. In the US, an average of 15 people are diagnosed with meningitis every year, with about half of those reporting invasive meningitis. But the CDC says the community-acquired cases — which, since this form of meningitis mostly begins from a viral infection — tend to appear most frequently in the late spring and summer.
Overall, CDC said it is awaiting results from the laboratory in 11 countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — to determine the meningitis caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, which they traced back to a week-old baby in Ecuador. Dr. Liz Taylor, a CDC epidemiologist, said the CDC is working to confirm the live-cell culture results with mouse or monkey DNA, then running them through labs in the United States that specialize in biological sampling. It will take weeks to confirm the results, Taylor said. Until then, she said, the disease may continue to spread and cause new infections.
Although the CDC said it has so far isolated the eight known cases in the United States from four hospitals and two college campuses, one case has also been connected to the outbreak in the United Kingdom. Out of the eight confirmed cases, seven have been treated and released and one case is still in the hospital, according to the CDC. It is not clear, though, whether the infected baby from Ecuador is among the eight.
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