Lab test results have come back and state health officials confirm a 46-year-old Andalusia man died from a bacterial infection that typically causes meningitis. Health officials say this is not an outbreak and should not cause alarm.
Friends identify the man as Keith Foshee. They say he went canoeing the weekend before he got sick. He went to Andalusia Regional Hospital on Aug. 4 and within just a few hours died. However, officials say it's not possible to catch the infection from the water only through close personal contact with an infected person, even someone who doesn't have any symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms are similar to the flu and may include sudden onset of a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, rash, confusion, and severe aches and pain in the muscles, joints, chest, or stomach. If you or a loved one has these symptoms, health officials say you should contact a doctor immediately.
"It's not something you wait to see if it's going to get better, especially if you have neck stiffness, fever, and headache all in the presentation," said Dr. Mary McIntyre the assistant state health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health.
McIntyre says it's not uncommon for the state to see cases of this type of meningitis and say the best way to prevent it is for people, in particular children 11-13, to get vaccinated.
"It should be routinely given to adolescents. There are issues because of the anti vaccine movement, a lot of children are not receiving their recommended immunizations. That not only puts them at risk but it puts the people they come in contact with at risk because they are more likely to potentially develop something. If we don't have our immunity level at a certain level then it puts the community at risk," McIntyre said.
Besides children, doctors suggest college students in dorms be vaccinated for it, along with military recruits, anyone traveling to Africa or anyone with a immune system disorder.
Foshee worked at O'Reilly Auto Parts in Andalusia. According to co-worker Wilbur Baxley, Foshee worked his normal shift on Friday and seemed perfectly fine from what he could tell.
On Monday however, Foshee called in sick and within hours had died.
"I was expecting to see him on Tuesday morning, but we got the news on Monday afternoon that he had passed, and it was a shock," Baxley said. "It's a big time shock and very upsetting. He was like the right hand man here at the store, and when you work with him side by side, it's hard to lose someone like that."
Baxley said that Foshee went canoeing over the weekend, which he often did during the summer.
Andalusia Regional Hospital "out of an abundance of caution" followed its infection control policies and diverted ambulance traffic for a short period of time the day Foshee went to the hospital. Normal activity resumed that night.
The case has caused some confusion as ADPH initially attributed the investigation to a case at Opp's Mizell Memorial Hospital. The ADPH says it currently knows of only one person in the Covington County area with what appears to be a bacterial illness.
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