FTAA protester’s death sparks meningitis outbreak concerns

CORALIE CARLSON, Associated Press Thursday, November 27, 2003
MIAMI — A volunteer medic who treated injured demonstrators at the Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting last week died Wednesday of a strain of bacterial meningitis, sparking a health investigation to determine whether others were exposed.

The 23-year-old New Jersey man, whose name was not released by officials, died in a Raleigh, N.C., hospital, said Dr. Jean-Marie Maillard, an epidemiologist for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. He had been hospitalized since Monday.

The victim was identified by demonstration organizers as Jordan Feder. He left the protest early and became ill on his way home, said his friend, Patrick McKale.

He was an activist and a volunteer medic for demonstrators at the trade talks who treated protesters that had been sprayed with tear gas and pepper spray on Thursday night and Friday, McKale said.

“He was a loving and compassionate person that just wanted to change the world for the better,” McKale said.

The victim lived in Monmouth County, N.J., said Dr. Eddy Bresnizt, the New Jersey State epidemiologist.

No other cases have been confirmed in New Jersey, North Carolina or Florida, health officials said.

“There are some rumors and CDC is working to identify whether there are any other case or cases,” Maillard said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only knew of one case — the New Jersey man — Wednesday afternoon, said spokesman Llelwyn Grant. The CDC identified about 40 to 45 people who had close contact with the victim, including those who traveled with him and lived with him, and gave them antibiotics, he said.

“We just don’t know at this time how far reaching this will be,” Grant said.

The victim had Neisseria meningitis, which is transmitted by respiratory droplets, Maillard said. It can be fatal in up to 20 percent of all untreated cases.

Grant said it would not likely be spread in a crowd simply through breathing.

Symptoms, which usually appear within four days of being infected, can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, rash, confusion, sleepiness and discomfort while looking into bright light.

“The Florida Department of Health is working with local county health departments and the CDC to investigate a possible group exposure to Neisseria meningitis,” said Rob Hayes, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health.

Maillard said it was not clear whether the victim was infected in Florida or earlier because the disease has an incubation period of up to 10 days.

“At this early stage, it does look as though we need to look at folks who attended a specific rally in South Florida last week,” Hayes said.

He did not say how many people were potentially affected, but thousands of people came to Miami for the demonstrations.

The Independent Media Center posted a message on its Web site Wednesday urging those who were treated by the victim in Miami to seek medical attention.

Original Link: http://m.naplesnews.com/news/2003/Nov/27/ndn_ftaa_protester__039_s_death_sparks_meningitis_/