Meningitis-related illness kills man |

Meningitis-related illness kills man

Eben Harrell

A 22-year-old Pitkin County man died early Tuesday morning of a suspected case of invasive bacterial meningococcal infection, an aggressive disease that can cause meningitis and has a fatality rate of around 70 percent if untreated.The victim was Dustin Foote, according to the county coroner’s office, which has identified the cause of his death as meningococcal meningitis.Health officials say the disease is contagious only through intimate personal contact [through saliva, for example] and have given precautionary treatment to the deceased’s girlfriend, roommates and close friends.Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis [brain swelling] and blood poisoning. While treatable through antibiotics, the disease is known for the swiftness of its onset, often making treatment difficult. Foote died Tuesday while being transported to an area hospital, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Community Health Department. He worked as a server at Snowmass Village’s Silvertree Hotel. Pitkin County Director of Public Health Yvonne Hernandez said those who had casual contact with Foote, such as hotel guests and visitors, are not considered at risk. She said the disease often appears in isolated cases.”There’s nothing to worry about for people who had casual contact with the patient,” Hernandez said.”We have been working closely with Pitkin County health officials and are very confident that no guest was exposed,” Silvertree Vice President of Operations Lance Burnell said. “Some employees who were close to him, such as his girlfriend, have received precautionary antibiotics. The hotel has also offered to pay for doctor visits or vaccinations for concerned employees.” The symptoms of meningococcal disease may include some of the following: severe headache, stiff neck, high fever, chills, sleepiness, bruise-like rash, nausea, vomiting, and being disoriented or confused. These symptoms can develop rapidly. The incubation period varies from one to 10 days, most commonly three to four days. More information is available through the Pitkin County Community Health Services at 920-5420 or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, (303) 692-2700 or 970-248-7143. A toll-free information line is available Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 1-888-685-8576. Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is

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