WMATA announced today that it took a bus out of service, and will be disinfecting 164 other buses after a driver was diagnosed with viral meningitis.

The driver operated routes 52 and 54 last Friday morning after coming back from vacation.

Meningitis is most dangerous for children and those with compromised immune systems.

Full release after the jump:

Metro has taken a bus out of service and is notifying customers about a health concern today in the wake of a bus operator being diagnosed with viral meningitis.

The bus operator’s only recent shift was Friday morning, when the operator was assigned to a bus on the 14th Street Line with the following scheduled trips between the hours of 7:13 a.m. and 10:18 a.m.:

  • Route 52, 7:13 a.m. trip from 14th & Buchanan Sts NW to L’Enfant Plaza
  • Route 54, 8:03 a.m. trip from L’Enfant Plaza to 14th & Colorado Sts NW
  • Route 52, 9:00 a.m. trip from 14th & Colorado Sts NW to L’Enfant Plaza

The bus has been removed from service until it can be thoroughly sanitized. In addition, as a precaution, Metro will disinfect all 164 buses at Northern Division tonight.

Metro does not believe that the employee had exposure to any other vehicle.  Prior to his morning shift Friday, the employee had been on vacation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment.  The symptoms of viral meningitis usually last from 7 to 10 days, and people with normal immune systems usually recover completely.

Anyone who exhibits symptoms should contact a physician.  The following information is provided from the Centers for Disease Control website:

Viral Meningitis Risk Factors
Viral meningitis can affect anyone. But infants younger than 1 month old and people whose immune systems are weak are at higher risk for severe infection. People who are around someone with viral meningitis have a chance of becoming infected with the virus that made that person sick, but they are not likely to develop meningitis as a complication of the illness.
Factors that can increase your risk of viral meningitis include:

  • Age – Viral meningitis occurs mostly in children younger than age 5.
  • Weakened immune system – There are certain diseases, medications and surgical procedures that may weaken the immune system and increase risk of meningitis.

Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread from person to person through fecal contamination (which can occur when changing a diaper or using the toilet and not properly washing hands afterwards). Enteroviruses can also be spread through respiratory secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of an infected person. Other viruses, such as mumps and varicella-zoster virus, may also be spread through direct or indirect contact with saliva, sputum, or mucus of an infected person. Contact with an infected person may increase your chance of becoming infected with the virus that made them sick; however you will have a small chance of developing meningitis as a complication of the illness.

Signs & Symptoms
Meningitis infection is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental status

Common symptoms in infants

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Poor eating
  • Hard to awaken

Common symptoms in adults

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Sleepiness or trouble waking up
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Lack of appetite

The symptoms of viral meningitis usually last from 7 to 10 days, and people with normal immune systems usually recover completely.

People with certain viral infections can sometimes develop meningitis. There are no vaccines for the most common causes of viral meningitis. Thus, the best way to prevent it is to prevent viral infections. However, that can be difficult since sometimes people can be infected with a virus and spread the virus even though they do not appear sick. Following are some steps you can take to help lower your chances of becoming infected with viruses or of passing one on to someone else:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially after changing diapers, using the toilet, or coughing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs or the TV remote control, with soap and water and then disinfect them with a dilute solution of chlorine-containing bleach.
  • Avoid kissing or sharing a drinking glass, eating utensil, lipstick, or other such items with sick people or with others when you are sick.
  • Make sure you and your child are vaccinated. Vaccinations included in the childhood vaccination schedule can protect children against some diseases that can lead to viral meningitis. These include vaccines against measles and mumps (MMR vaccine) and chickenpox (varicella-zoster vaccine).
  • Avoid bites from mosquitoes and other insects that carry diseases that can infect humans.
  • Control mice and rats. If you have a rodent infestation in and/or around your home, follow the cleaning and control precautions listed on CDC’s website about LCMV (Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus).