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Meningitis reported in visiting student

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A visiting student was admitted to West Chester Hospital on Sunday (Feb. 3) with meningococcal meningitis. The West Chester University student attended a conference at Penn State on Friday, Feb. 1, through Sunday, Feb. 3.

University Health Services (UHS) is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to contact individuals at University Park who may have been exposed to the infected student. Prophylactic antibiotic therapy is recommended for anyone with prolonged, close contact with an infected person.

Meningococcal meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis that is treated with antibiotics. This is a serious infection that may develop rapidly. Early symptoms may include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights, confusion and lethargy. Because symptoms may develop rapidly, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible.

Meningococcal meningitis bacteria are spread by activities such as kissing, sharing eating utensils, sharing drink containers and toothbrushes, and by prolonged, close contact with an infected person. Anyone who has direct contact with a diagnosed person’s oral secretions (such as a girlfriend or boyfriend) or lives in the same household is considered to have an increased risk of acquiring the infection.

A number of resources are available to Penn State students concerned about symptoms or exposure. University Health Services offers a 24/7 Advice Nurse Line at 814-863-4463. UHS is open during regular business hours Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Students can get the meningococcal vaccine at University Health Services by scheduling an appointment online at www.sa.psu.edu/uhs or by calling 814-863-0774. Emergency services also are available to students 24 hours a day by dialing 911.

College students are strongly encouraged to get the meningococcal vaccine before 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. The vaccine is effective in preventing four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three most common types in the United States. Unfortunately, the vaccine cannot prevent all types of the disease and may not be effective in 100 percent of people who receive it (which is the reason for prophylactic treatment of all close contacts of infected individuals).

For more information about meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.htm.

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