Health authorities have raised fears the fatal meningococcemia disease may spread quickly, after killing a four year-old-boy Monday night.
According to radio reports, a little over six hours after the boy was rushed to the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City at 3:30 p.m., he died at 9:36 p.m, the same day.
His name was not specified -- in obvious protection of the boy -- but the report said he was from Rodriguez town in Rizal.
Meanwhile, National Epidemiology Center head, Enrique Tayag, said that after seeing symptoms of the disease, one should visit the hospital immediately.
"It is not so easy for meningococcemia to spread," Tayag said in Filipino in the radio report.
"You need intimate contact, such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It will not likely spread via casual contact such as taking the patient's temperature."
He added it is not highly contagious but can spread via direct contact of nose and mouth secretions from another sick person.
It can also spread if a sick person directly sneezes or coughs to another person's face.
About five percent of health persons harbor the bacteria as the disease stems from a bacteria found in the nose, mouth and throat of healthy persons, he said.
On the other hand, Dr. Nancy Nazaire-Bermal, Head of the Clinical Research and Dev't of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, said that a patient with meningococcemia can have almost the same symptoms as one with influenza (flu) like high fever, cough and colds but the difference is a violacious polymorphic (comes in several shapes) rash that spreads rapidly.
As for the treatment, meningococcemia can be cured by antibiotics and can also be treated with penicillin but the timing should be once the symptom is there, said Bermal, who is also a practicing pediatrician.
"Prevention is vaccine and there is also prophylaxis for those close contact so that the disease will not spread to the body," Bermal added, emphasizing antibiotics should be guarded and prescribed by a doctor because it cannot be given to all.
Meanwhile, Dr. Dennis Quiambao, Medical and Gov't Affairs Manager of Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmaceutical company said that a patient with meningococcemia needs to be isolated not only because they can transmit the disease but they can be infected with other organisms that make them more susceptible to other diseases.
"Meningococcemia is fatal," Quiambao said.
"Especially (since) it goes into the bloodstream -- it can quickly take away the life of anyone within 24 hours."
However, Tayag said the death rate of meningococcemia is not that high -- only one in every 20 cases is fatal.
"For every fatality, 19 others survive," he said, but posted on his Twitter account that 10 percent of those who get ill die even with hospital care.
The last outbreak of meningococcemia happened in Baguio last 2005.
According to medical experts, meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, a contagious bacterium and is spread from person to person via respiratory secretions.