University Park, Pa. -- Health officials at Penn State report that a probable case of meningococcal meningitis has been diagnosed in a student, who has been hospitalized at Mount Nittany Medical Center and is being treated for the infection. In addition, friends and close contacts of the student have been called and offered the appropriate prophylactic medication. The affected student is a resident of Pinchot Hall in East Halls on the University Park campus.
Meningococcal meningitis usually is not transmitted by routine contact, but is spread by saliva or other intimate prolonged contact with the infected person. Activities such as kissing, sharing eating utensils, drink containers and toothbrushes can cause transmission of the infection.
Meningococcal meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis that is treated with antibiotics. This disease can easily be perceived as something less serious, because symptoms are similar to the flu. Early symptoms may include fever, severe headache and nausea, sensitivity to bright lights, progressing to more serious symptoms such as stiff neck, vomiting, confusion and lethargy. Symptoms may develop rapidly and for this reason, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible.
For students who have concerns about symptoms or feel they may have been exposed to the infected individual, University Health Services is open on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Students can speak to a registered nurse 24/7 by calling 814-863-4463.
College students are strongly encouraged to get the meningococcal vaccine prior to starting at Penn State; those who live in University-owned housing are required by Pennsylvania law to either be immunized against meningococcal disease or complete a waiver. Even though the vaccine is advised, it protects against only certain strains of the bacteria. Students can get the meningococcal vaccine at University Health Services by scheduling an appointment online at http://www.sa.psu.edu/uhs or by calling 814-863-0774.
For more information about meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at at http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html online.