Condition of student with meningitis upgraded, other students treated

University Park, Pa. — A 20-year-old Penn State student diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis has been upgraded to serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, and approximately 60 people who believe they had come into close contact with the student have been treated by University Health Services.

University Health Services opened early Saturday to begin administering medication — a one-time antibiotic to prevent infection from developing — to those who believe they were in close contact with the ill student, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The affected student was a member and resident of Alpha Chi Rho fraternity at 425 Locust Lane, and all fraternity members were advised to seek medical treatment. University officials have worked with fraternity members to identify anyone who may have been at risk.

Anyone who believes they may be at risk, should contact University Health Services at (814) 863-4463.

Meningococcal meningitis usually is not transmitted by routine contact, but is spread by saliva or other intimate prolonged close 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 serious disease can easily be misdiagnosed as something less serious, because symptoms are similar to the flu. Early symptoms may include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights, confusion and lethargy. Symptoms may develop rapidly and for this reason, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible.

Late winter and early spring are peak times for the spread of meningitis. In recent weeks, cases have been confirmed at other regional universities including Penn, East Stroudsburg and West Virginia.

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 of exemption. 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 http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.htm.

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Last Updated April 01, 2009