University Park student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis

March 28, 2009

University Park, Pa. – Health officials at Penn State report that a probable case of meningococcal meningitis has been diagnosed in a 20-year-old student, who has been hospitalized at Geisinger Medical Center and is being treated for the infection. In addition, friends and acquaintances of the student have been contacted and offered the appropriate prophylactic medication.

University Health Services opened early Saturday to begin administering medication 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. To date, 40 individuals have been treated and University officials are working with fraternity members to identify any additional students who may be at risk. Anyone who believes they may be at risk, should contact University Health Services at 863-4463.

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.

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.

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 or by calling (814) 863-0774.

For more information about meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at at online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 28, 2009