40 in Ohio, Pittsburgh area treated as precaution for meningitis
Sept. 10--About 40 people have received an antibiotic against bacterial meningitis in the Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, areas since a Squirrel Hill man died of the illness last week, but none has been diagnosed with the infection, health officials said Sunday.
The recipients -- about 15 in the Pittsburgh area and 25 in the Columbus area -- were given the antibiotic Cipro based on conversations with health officials regarding their contact with Joseph Christopher Cecchini, 29, who died Wednesday from meningococcal meningitis in UPMC Mercy, Uptown.
Bacterial meningitis is spread by saliva or respiratory secretions via hugging or kissing; sharing food, beverages or cigarettes; or coughing or sneezing, the agency emphasized.
On Friday, the Allegheny County Health Department issued a public notice urging those who had come in close contact with Cecchini between Aug. 24 and Wednesday to contact the department to determine whether they needed to receive Cipro.
As of Friday, 25 people had contacted the department. The number had risen to 55 Saturday and to 60 Sunday, said Ronald E. Voorhees, acting director of the health department.
"I think we are starting to taper off," he said.
The department also notified health officials in Columbus because Cecchini had traveled there for Labor Day weekend. Cecchini went to Columbus on Sept. 1, returned to Pittsburgh on Sept. 3 and was hospitalized Sept. 4.
As of Sunday, more than 35 people had contacted Columbus Public Health to discuss their concerns, Columbus Public Health spokesman Jose Rodriguez said.
Officials aren't sure when or where Cecchini contracted the infection.
"The incubation typically is three to four days, but it can be up to 10," Voorhees said.
Symptoms include sudden fever, a stiff neck, a rash, vomiting, headache and fatigue. Those with a higher risk of infection include infants, people in large group settings such as college dorms and those with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The United States has averaged about 4,100 bacterial meningitis cases a year from 2003 to 2007, with about 500 deaths annually, the CDC said.
Contraction of the illness is becoming more rare as states and organizations require vaccinations against it, he said.
In 2002, Pennsylvania began requiring the meningococcal vaccine for all college students living in dorms, and in 2010, the state began requiring the vaccine for students entering seventh grade.
The county health department has not been able to determine whether Cecchini had received a meningococcal vaccination, said Dr. Jim Lando, acting chief of epidemiology and biostatistics.
Cecchini graduated from McKeesport Area High School and attended Penn State McKeesport. He was a manager at the Internal Revenue Service and owned a printing company, Voelkoman Co., and two magazines, CUE Pittsburgh and CUE Columbus.
His funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Monday in the chapel of Jaycox-Jaworski Funeral Home Inc., 2703 O'Neil Blvd., McKeesport.
Entombment will be in New St. Joseph Cemetery Mausoleum, North Versailles.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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