Two recent deaths were two different types of meningitis - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Two recent deaths were two different types of meningitis

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Jewel Pimentel. Jewel Pimentel.
Jackie Billings. Jackie Billings.

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - County Health and Human Services is confirming a teenager and a woman in her early 50s died of meningitis within the last week. While both cases proved to be deadly, the types of infections were very different.

While Dr. Wilma Wooten confirms the two meningitis deaths in the county, she stresses the cases are very different.

"Meningitis is a technical term that's given to the inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal chord," Wooten told CBS News 8.

Jackie Billings had a form of meningitis that usually isn't very serious. Unfortunately, the 52-year-old had other unrelated medical conditions that compromised her body's ability to fight the virus, and she died.

"Viral meningitis is very common in adults. We have hundreds of cases of that each year," Wooten said.

Fourteen-year-old Jewel Pimentel felt sick after coming home from school Tuesday February 11. The Patrick Henry High freshman was rushed to the hospital Wednesday, and died Thursday. It turns out she had something called meningococcal disease.

"Meningococcal disease is more than just meningitis. It is… the meningies are inflammed. So there's inflammation of the brain lining, plus it gets into the blood," Wooten said.

That floods the body with toxins, leading to all sorts of possible complications, including -- about 10 percent of the time -- death.

"There's no way to determine how she got it," Wooten said.

Wooten says everyone who came in close contact with Jewel has been put on antibiotics, and none have shown symptoms, which include a distinctive rash. Wooten told CBS News 8 how the disease is spread.

"Sharing of saliva, kissing, eating after each other. Kids share water bottles, they drink after each other," she said.

There were 16 cases of meningococcal disease last year. Three ended in death. If you think your child has been infected, Dr. Wooten says don't wait to see a doctor.

"This is an urgent situation. If you think your child has a headache, fever, stiff neck, and nausea and vomiting, as well as the rash, that demands they be taken to the emergency room immediately," Wooten said.

Wooten wants to remind parents that there is a vaccine for meningitis. It's recommended for children at age 11 or 12, with a booster at age 16.

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