A University student was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, Dr. James Turner, director of Student Health, said in an email to the student body last Wednesday. Since then, 51 students have been identified as being at risk of close contact, and 50 of those have come in with no symptoms and were given a dose of an antibiotic to eliminate any residual bacteria. Turner confirmed in an email that no new cases have been identified since Tuesday.
The case at the University was Meningococcal meningitis, Turner said, a type of meningitis that resides in the nose and throat of 5 percent of healthy young adults.
“Very rarely, for reasons which are unclear, the bacteria enters the bloodstream and causes an infection that can settle in the lining of the brain and spinal cord causing meningitis,” Turner said. “We have seen disease occur during flu seasons and this may contribute to the bacteria getting in the bloodstream.”
The bacteria kills 15 percent of those infected, and 20 percent of survivors require amputations or suffer from kidney failure or brain damage. More than 4000 cases occurred each year between 2003 and 2007, according to the CDC, which resulted in 500 fatalities.
The bacteria is very contagious; it spreads through the exchange of throat and respiratory secretions. Commonly this occurs in a college setting through activities such as kissing, sharing drinks or smoking materials and sleeping in the same room. Although 95 percent of University students have received a vaccination for meningococcal meningitis, Turner said, this vaccine did not account for the strain that broke out on Grounds.
Symptoms include severe headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness and altered mental state. Turner said any student experiencing these symptoms should seek care immediately.