Virginia Teen Dies from Rare Case of Meningitis

After the confirmed death of Virginia teen, Madison Small, from meningococcal meningitis the county Health Department has received increased calls from residents who may have been exposed to the infection.


The Health Department is evaluating all reports received to see whether anyone is at an increased risk of for the infection. There is currently no evidence of a meningitis outbreak in the community, but prevention and awareness around its causes it critical.

Preventing Meningitis

Local health authorities say frequent hand washing is importance. It is one of the most efficient ways to help prevent the spread of many types of communicable diseases. Parents and concerned residents should also seek medical evaluation if any symptoms develop.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis, is an infection and can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ. Bacteria that cause meningitis are spread with direct contact with secretions of an infected person.


  • Saliva
  • Sputum
  • Nasal mucus

Can occur when an infected person:

  • Coughs or sneezes near someone
  • Kissing
  • Sharing personal items such as eating utensils, cups, water bottles, or lip balm/lipstick.

More common symptoms of meningitis include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Photo sensitivity (sensitivity to bright light)
  • Rash
  • Infants and young children may be sleepy, irritable and feed poorly
  • Can take from two to 10 days from the time of exposure until symptoms develop
  • Best way to prevent spreading
  • Complete the recommended vaccine schedule
  • Do not share personal items and to wash hands frequently, especially before eating

What is Meningococcal Meningitis?

This is an infection that causes swelling & irritation in the brain & spinal cord. Most cases occur in young children and teenagers and tend to occur in winter or spring. This is not spread by casual contact. Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria Meningitidis AKA meningococcus. Bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions.
When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known as meninges, become infected and swell.


  • Sudden onset fever
  • Sudden onset headache
  • Stiff neck.
  • Nausea
  • Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)


  • Be alert if someone you know is diagnosed

  • Take antibiotics if someone close to you is diagnosed

  • Use good hygiene habits

  • Get vaccinated

Meningitis Vaccine

A vaccine is available and recommended for all 11-18 year olds. Adolescents and young adults 16-21 have higher rates of meningococcal disease. Infants are also at higher risk
College students, especially first year college students living in residence halls are at an increased risk compared to other people the same age group. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. It's important to know the available vaccines do not cover all strains