Activities were canceled this week at a Girl Scout Camp near Sioux City after an employee was hospitalized with a possible case of bacterial meningitis.
The 20-year-old counselor at Joy Hollow Camp later died of the disease. The rest of the staff is now being treated for possible exposure.
State epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says it’s unlikely any of the Girl Scouts who visited the camp contracted the infection.
Bterial meningitis can cause permanent brain damage or even death. "It still kills somewhere between five and ten percent of the people who get it even with good medical care and some of the people who survive do have lasting brain damage," Quinlisk says. "You don’t even want to take a one percent chance of getting that disease."
Quinlisk recommends that parents get their children vaccinated against meningitis when they’re 12 or 13.
Bacterial meningitis is spread through saliva, so an outbreak at a camp would be rare, according to Quinlisk, who says transmission comes from very close contact. "Typically this is going to be boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, family members and maybe a good friend that you shared a Coke with," she says.
In a typical year there are between 15 and 20 cases of meningitis in Iowa. So far this year, there have been seven.