March 15, 2008

Second Student Hospitalized With Bacterial Meningitis

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On March 13, a Cornell student was hospitalized with what has been confirmed by the Tompkins County Health Department to be meningococcal meningitis. The 19-year-old male, currently in stable condition at Cayuga Medical Center, is the second student in the past week to be hospitalized with the infectious disease.
The first student, a 21-year-old female, was hospitalized on March 8 and is currently recovering at a hospital near her home after being airlifted from CMC.
Gannett and the Tompkins County Health Department are working together to determine any connection between the two cases. So far they have determined that the two students may have been in the same location at some point, said Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations.
Gannett has prescribed the antibiotic Cipro to about 140 students who may have been in close contact with either one of the students. Many other students have received antibiotics from home or other places.
“The Health Department and Cornell health services want people to take precaution. We’re advising people to take precaution. If students have any questions they can call either Gannett any time of the night or day or the Tompkins County health department,” Moss said.
Meningococcal meningitis, also know as bacterial meningitis, is a rare but serious disease that affects 100 to 125 students annually on college campuses and can cause permanent health problems or death. The disease is airborne and is transmitted via droplets of respiratory secretions and through direct contact such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone.
The University has advised that anyone who attended parties on March 6 at 124 Catherine St., on March 6 at 118 Cook St., or on March 8 at 306 Highland Ave., should obtain the preventative antibiotic, which is available at Gannett.
However, in a press release issued yesterday, the University urged that “all members of the Cornell community regardless of attendance at these parties, should be on the alert for the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and aware of ways to reduce the risk of infection.”
Meningitis infects the fluid of a person’s spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Common symptoms include high fever, headache and stiff neck and will usually develop over the course of one to two days, or just several hours. Students should also be aware of nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness, which may result.
On Friday morning, a freshman at SUNY College at Oswego was found dead in his dormitory from what is thought to have been bacterial meningitis. Though an autopsy has yet to confirm the cause of his death, the school sent out an alert recommending that those who were in contact with him in the 10 days prior to his death seek preventative care. The case was not linked to the two cases of meningitis at Cornell.
A vaccine is available that protects against four of the five strains of the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that all adolescents get vaccinated for the disease.
Those with questions can contact Gannett at 607-255-5155, or visit their website at or can call the Tompkins County Health Department at 607-274-6616.