Richmond City Councilmember-elect Gary Bell was still in the hospital Wednesday with what may be a case of viral meningitis.
Bell first went to the hospital Nov. 6, election night, but had checked himself out of the hospital against his doctor’s wishes to attend his election watch party at Salute restaurant, said Contra Costa Times (and former Richmond Confidential) reporter Robert Rogers, who saw Bell in the Richmond Kaiser intensive care unit Nov. 10. Bell was unable to speak at that time and had had surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, Rogers said.
At the election watch party, Bell announced to his crowd of supporters after a short speech that he had viral meningitis and was going back to the hospital. Viral meningitis is typically less severe than bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal.
However, Bell has since had two major surgeries, according to a Nov. 12 Facebook post by his campaign coordinator, Angela Cleo Smith. In a phone interview, Smith could not confirm what type of meningitis Bell has.
“That’s the issue right now, we don’t know for sure,” Smith said. She said that the councilman had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms before election night.
At some points during election night, Bell seemed visibly affected by his illness; an outspoken supporter of President Obama, Bell was almost expressionless when CNN projected him the winner as cheers filled the bar. Bell also seemed to have slight difficulty remembering details during a speech he gave and he mentioned having a headache.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, meningitis is when the lining – meninges — of the brain and spinal cord have become infected with either bacteria or viruses. Both types of meningitis are not passed through casual contact, but through saliva, and in the case of viral meningitis, saliva and fecal contamination. Those exposed to someone with viral meningitis may fall sick with the same virus without it necessarily affecting the lining of their brain or spinal cord.
Most rarely, meningitis may also be caused by a fungal infection introduced directly to the central nervous system, as in the case of the current outbreak caused by contaminated steroid injections. This type of meningitis is not contagious and no cases associated with the contaminated injections have yet been reported in California.
Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and stiff neck, and doctors are required to report cases of meningitis to county health officials.