A Miami first-year student is being treated at a local hospital for meningococcal meningitis (bacterial meningitis), after being diagnosed Sunday morning (Nov. 18). This disease is a bacterial infection spread by intimate person-to-person contact where saliva is transmitted. University officials have contacted those who are at a high probability of risk and are offering them a prophylactic antibiotic.
Meningococcal meningitis (as opposed to viral meningitis) is a serious disease that requires aggressive treatment for victims as well as preventive measures for those having had intimate contact with one who is infected.
University officials, including staff of the student health services, met with residents of the corridor in Havighurst Hall, where the meningitis victim lives.
University officials emphasize that:
• There has only been one confirmed case of the disease;
• The student health service is offering the prophylactic medicine today to those identified as having intimate contact with the victim; and
• Casual contact with a person with meningococcal meningitis does not increase your risk of contacting the disease, but any students who are concerned should go to the student health service, where doctors can advise them and administer the prophylactic therapy if needed.
Ohio law requires that students living in residence halls on campus either demonstrate that they have received the appropriate immunizations, or sign a waiver indicating that they are aware of the disease and the risk, and have chosen not to be immunized. This law is implemented at Miami as part of the housing contract, and has been in effect since 2005. The university encourages students who live off-campus to consider receiving the immunization as well, and the vaccine is available at the student health service.
Facts About Meningococcal Meningitis (from National Meningitis Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Meningitis Foundation of America)
• Meningitis can be caused by a virus or by bacteria. Most cases of viral meningitis run a short, uneventful course. Most persons who have had contact with an individual with viral meningitis do not require any treatment.
• Meningococcal disease is a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
• College students, particularly freshmen living in residence halls, have a higher risk of getting this contagious disease.
• Bacterial meningitis is very rare--the annual incidence in the United States is 1 case per 100,000 people. But because meningitis can cause grave illness and rapid progress to death, it requires early diagnosis and treatment.
• The disease is caused by the Meningococcal bacteria, which can also cause meningococcemia. The bacteria cannot survive outside the body for more than a few minutes. The disease is spread by intimate person-to- person contact. It is not spread through the air. Even persons who shared a drinking glass with a person who had the disease would have only three chances in 1,000 of contracting the disease.
How Meningitis is Spread
Meningococcal meningitis is spread through close contact where saliva is transmitted such as coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing drinks or cigarettes.
College Students at Special Risk
Lifestyle factors common among college students seem to be linked to the disease and have been known to compromise the immune system - including communal living situations, alcohol consumption and bar patronage (with or without alcohol consumption), smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke and irregular sleep habits.
Freshmen living in residence halls are up to six times more likely to get the disease than other people. For that reason, college students are urged to get the vaccine.
Meninigococcal meningitis often starts out looking like the flu or a migraine.
Symptoms may include a high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. Purple spots or a rash may appear if blood poisoning has started.
See more information on the student health service website at http://www.units.muohio.edu/saf/shs/meningococcal.pdf and
For additional questions, call student health services at 529-3051 or 529-3000.