November 27, 2001

Student Hospitalized With Meningitis

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A Cornell University student was hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis while visiting her home in Massachusetts over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The student, a 19-year-old female sophomore, whose name has not been released due to patient confidentiality, became ill at home and was hospitalized Sunday.

She was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and has been in the intensive care unit since then. She was “released out of the ICU last night,” according to Sharon Dittman, the associate director of community relations for Gannett: Cornell University Health Services.

The student is “doing a lot better and is expected to make a full recovery,” Dittman said.

This is the second case of meningitis on the Cornell campus this year. In March, a male North Campus resident was diagnosed with the rare bacterial infection. However, the case was much more serious than yesterday’s reported case, according to Dittman.

“People at risk have already been informed and in some cases started on antibiotics,” Dittman said. “The circle of concern is very small,” she added. No other cases at Cornell have been identified this year to date.

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious infectious disease. It usually occurs in children or young adults but has some potential in a campus setting to occur in multiple individuals.

Between 100 and 125 cases are reported on college campuses each year, according to Dittman. Cornell averages one case every one or two years, she said.

Dittman advises that the “most important thing students can do is do anything to better their immune systems.” Dittman also suggests that students wash hands frequently, and reduce stress by eating healthy and getting more sleep. Students should also avoid cigarette smoke and heavy consumption of alcohol, she said.

“The early symptoms are like other respiratory infections,” Dittman said. These include congestion, high fever, head ache, stiff neck and sometimes a rash. “Individuals often develop meningococcus after another sickness,” Dittman added.

“The disease progresses very quickly,” Dittman said. Although the disease can lead to death, this is very rare, only occurring in 10-15 percent of cases, according to Dittman.

Dittman recommends that anyone suddenly experiencing a severe worsening in flu like symptoms seek medical care. Gannett also offers a vaccination, although its effectiveness is “85 percent effective” said Dittman.

For more information about the disease and its vaccination contact Gannett at 255-5155 or visit .

Archived article by Marc Zawel