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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Party Boys - Listen UP!

If you are between 18 and 21 and think there is no end to the party listen up. A group of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh say partying hard can lead to harmful effects beyond a hangover.

They found that three healthy adults who developed meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The researchers say they may have contracted it during a bout of binge drinking and smoking. One of the men died.

U Pitts Dr. Rebecca Finn describe the cases of the three men in the Southern Medical Journal.

Meningitis is usually caused by meningococcal bacteria, often a species known as Neisseria meningitidis.

The incidence of the invasive was uncommon in younger people until the 1990s.

The three men, aged 18 to 21, contracted the infection in May 1999. Public health investigators found that all of the men had attended the same party, and that they were infected with an identical strain of N. meningitidis, which strongly suggests--but does not confirm--that they contracted the infection at the party.

Upper respiratory tract infection and crowding have long been known to be risk factors for meningitis, Finn's team notes. More recently, other factors have also been linked to the disease, including spending time in bars, binge drinking and smoking--passive smoking as well as active smoking.

"The increased risk of invasive meningococcal disease associated with bar patronage is thought to be due to a combination of factors that could facilitate transmission, including crowding, poor ventilation, active and passive smoking, smoking-associated coughing, and the sharing of drinking glasses and cigarettes,'' the authors write

A currently available vaccine could probably have prevented the young men's infection, as well as most other cases of meningococcal infection in this age group.

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