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Meningitis outbreak forces Special Olympics to move from Army post

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    Meningitis outbreak forces Special Olympics to move from Army post

    Posted on Wed, Apr. 24, 2002
    Meningitis outbreak forces Special Olympics to move from Army post
    Associated Press Writer

    Special Olympics announced Wednesday that it would not hold its summer games at Fort Leonard Wood due to a recent outbreak of bacterial meningitis at the Army post.

    Mark Musso, president of Missouri Special Olympics, said a new site was being sought for the May 16-18 games.

    It was not immediately clear whether the decision would affect the date of the games, which attract nearly 2,200 Missouri youths and adults with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.

    Musso said the decision to move the games was the result of a collective decision by his committee, along with state health and Army officials.

    Four cases of bacterial meningitis, including one that killed a 12-year-old boy, have been reported in recent weeks at Fort Leonard Wood. Health officials, along with the Army, have been vaccinating those who regularly visit or live at the post.

    Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services recommended that the games not be held at Fort Leonard Wood because the source of the meningitis outbreak has not been determined. People between the ages of 2 and 19 also are among those who are more likely to catch the disease.

    "We don't know the source," said Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for the state health department. "The games are less than 30 days away, and it would bring a large number of vulnerable people to the base."

    Musso said protecting public health certainly was a concern.

    "Our first priority in this decision is for the safety of the athletes, family members and volunteers," he said. "Although this is a disappointment for all those involved, we look forward to future visits to Fort Leonard Wood."

    Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Holden has begun looking for an alternative location for the games. Holden's spokesman, Jerry Nachtigal, said the University of Missouri at Columbia was one possibility.

    "We are hopeful that the event can be moved to another location," Nachtigal said. "It would definitely have to be held at a later date due to the short notice."

    Fort Leonard Wood has hosted the state summer games for 26 years. The competition includes aquatics, track and field, bocce, powerlifting and soccer.

    Lt. Col. Derik Crotts, spokesman for Fort Leonard Wood's Public Affairs Office, called the decision a "prudent preventative measure."

    "We deeply regret the need for this decision, but feel that it is in the best interests of the athletes," he said. "As for the future, we look forward to hosting this event again next year, and for another 26 years."

    Musso said decision does not affect the current schedule of qualifying area-level events.

    Meanwhile, an 18-year-old sailor who was hospitalized with the disease on Sunday, was in good condition Wednesday. He had come down with the disease after having direct contact with a 20-year-old male sailor who was initially diagnosed at Fort Leonard Wood, officials said.

    A 12-year-old boy who attended Wood Middle School died of the disease in late March. A 31-year-old female soldier trainee also tested positive for the disease and was treated.

    This kind of meningitis, a meningococcal bacterium, infects the spinal cord fluid and fluid surrounding the brain, health experts said. Symptoms are severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, vomiting and a splotchy rash across the stomach and chest.

    Early treatment with antibiotics can cure a person. But if allowed to go untreated, the resulting condition may cause brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability, or in 5 percent to 15 percent of cases, death.

    Boy, I gotta wonder if something nasty is buried at that base. I did basic training there and everyone was foot to head in the bunk beds and all windows were open a mandatory one inch even in the Korean-like windy winters to prevent meningitis. I've been to a lot of bases since and none others do this that I know of. I'm glad they stopped the games.
    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

    Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied and are based solely on my experiences as a SCI patient. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.