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CDC: No contact between Ohio outbreak cases

By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Unit

ALLIANCE, Ohio (CNN) -- Two Ohio teenagers who died from meningitis-related illnesses and a third who is in serious condition in a hospital had no contact with one another, leaving it a mystery why all three became infected in a short period of time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Thursday.

"It's a freak thing of medicine," said Thomas Skinner, a CDC spokesman.

A 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl died in northeastern Ohio over Memorial Day weekend of Neisseria meningitides group c, a strain of bacteria that can cause meningitis.

A third teenager, an 18-year-old girl who attends a different school, remains at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron.

Since the deaths, reports surfaced that the two teens who died had shared a water bottle. Skinner said that is not true.

When it was confirmed Wednesday that the third student had the same type of bacterial infection as the two who died, residents became more concerned that the bacteria was spreading.

Skinner said it is not possible to determine a single source for meningitis outbreaks.

Up to 10 percent of the population can carry the bacteria without ever becoming ill, he said. However, these carriers can then infect someone who does become ill.

Health officials Tuesday ordered a program to immunize 5,800 students and teachers at high schools against the bacterial infection that can cause meningitis.

Ohio Department of Health said family members will not be vaccinated, a decision that has raised concerns with residents.

Meningitis is spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include high fever, headache, and a stiff neck.

The virus is often ignored at first because the symptoms are similar to the flu.

Although bacterial meningitis can be deadly, it can also be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough.

• Meningitis Foundation of America Homepage
• Meningitis Research Foundation

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