An outbreak of bacterial meningitis in eastern China has killed at least five people this month.

Official news media report infections have been encountered in 11 areas of Anhui province, including Nanjing (and the cities of Wuhu, Chuzhou, Anqing, Chaohu and Hefei). Chinese public-health officials say most of the victims are young people between the ages of 13 and 18.

(According to Xinhua,) Authorities say 61 cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported (in Anhui province) during the past month -- more than four times the normal rate. Most patients recovered, but seven are still being treated under quarantine.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The cases in eastern China have been caused by (group C meningitis diplococcus) bacteria that can spread relatively easily and are difficult to control.

Schools have been urged to monitor students closely for symptoms of meningitis, which include high fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting.