University Health Services confirms bacterial meningitis at University Park

September 24, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Local health officials confirmed a single case of meningococcal meningitis at University Park on Monday, Sept. 24. The patient, a Penn State student, has been treated for the infection and is currently recovering at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

University Health Services, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to monitor the case. Close contacts of the student, who resides on campus, have been notified and provided with the appropriate antibiotic prophylaxis.

Meningococcal meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis that is treated with antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. It is spread by close contact with an infected individual. Most people recover from meningitis, however, serious complications, including death, can occur in as little as a few hours if left untreated.

While many people exposed to the infection never become sick, the severity of the illness warrants a quick response. The University urges students who experience any of the following symptoms to seek medical attention immediately. Students should contact University Health Services’ 24/7 Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463 or contact their nearest emergency health care facility.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis may be severe and include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Confusion or altered mental status

Symptoms most commonly appear three to seven days after exposure but may present anywhere from two to 10 days after exposure. Symptoms may progress very rapidly. 

How it spreads

Bacterial meningitis is spread through close contact with an infected individual, including kissing, sharing food and beverage, or breathing in bacteria spread by sneezing or coughing. College students are especially at risk due to close living environments.

Diagnosis and treatment

Bacterial meningitis is confirmed through laboratory tests that analyze blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid. It is treated by targeted antibiotics; the sooner antibiotic treatment is initiated the better.

Prevention

The most effective prevention against bacterial meningitis is vaccination.

Penn State, in accordance with Pennsylvania law, requires all students living in University housing to provide proof of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). This vaccine is effective against the most common meningococcal infections caused by serogroups A, C, W and Y. One dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine administered at age 16 or older is required. University Health Services also recommends that students receive the meningococcal vaccine for serogroup B (MenB) — a strain that has been seen more frequently on university campuses over the past several years. Like with any vaccine, however, the vaccines that protect against these bacteria are not 100 percent effective, as they do not protect against all strains of each bacteria.

Other prevention methods include avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick, not sharing food or drinks with others, washing hands frequently, avoiding cigarette smoke and getting plenty of rest.

More information about bacterial meningitis, including symptoms, treatment and prevention, can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or the Pennsylvania Department of Health Meningococcal Disease Fact Sheet.

Last Updated October 04, 2018