Another Case For Handwashing

May 02, 1999

Viral Meningitis in Child Care Center Staff and Parents

Meningitis Outbreak. In the latest issue of the journal Public Health Reports, researchers from the Santa Clara County (CA) Public Health Department and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe an investigation of a 1992 outbreak of viral meningitis among children attending a child care center, center staff, and household members of children attending the center. A total of 139 children and adults were found to be infected with the viral agent that caused meningitis; 21 had symptoms of meningitis.

Changing diapers was a risk factor for infection among parents and other adult household members of infected children who wore diapers. Interestingly, women who changed larger numbers of diapers had a higher rate of infection than women who changed fewer diapers, while in men, the opposite was true: those who changed larger numbers of diapers had a lower rate of infection than those who changed fewer diapers. Handwashing accounted for the difference; among adults who changed larger numbers of diapers, men were more likely than women to report always washing their hands after changing diapers.

Viral meningitis was identified in 18 of 167 adults and 3 of 115 children, only one of whom attended the center. Five of the adults were hospitalized.

Public Health Reports

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