March 26, 2009 — A fourth-year male student at the University of Virginia has been admitted to the University hospital with bacterial meningitis. He is currently in serious condition.
All of the student's personal contacts and the first-responder personnel who were thought to have had close contact were notified and have since received antibiotic prophylaxis.
Bacterial meningitis, specifically meningococcal meningitis, occurs in college students at a rate four to five times the general population. Living in close quarters, concurrent respiratory infections such as the flu or mononucleosis, and certain types of weakened immune systems contribute to the increased risk for infection.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has required meningococcal vaccination (or a waiver) for all undergraduate students at four-year colleges since 2001. Currently, 95 percent of U.Va. undergraduate students have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, and 77 percent of all U.Va. students have been vaccinated. Students who met the University pre-entrance immunization requirements upon enrollment can assume they have been appropriately vaccinated.
This is a rare but very serious disease that carries mortality rates of up to 15 percent. Although it is not as highly contagious as some infections, household and intimate contacts are at risk because of direct contact with respiratory secretions and saliva. People with casual contact such as classmates, teammates and teachers/faculty are not considered to be at increased risk.
Meningococcal meningitis bacteria are identified as having five strain types, four of which are prevented by the two currently recommended meningococcal vaccines, Menactra and Menomune. Strain type B is not prevented by vaccine.
In this current case, a strain type has yet to be identified.
A meningococcal meningitis patient may have a high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion or sleepiness and a red rash that starts on the hands and feet. Anyone who develops these symptoms should see a physician immediately.
• U.Va. students with questions can call 434-982-3915 during the day or 434-972-7004 after hours.
• Students who have waived the vaccine in the past and now want to be immunized can self-schedule an appointment for a vaccine online.
• Again, students who met the University pre-entrance immunization requirements upon enrollment can assume they have been appropriately vaccinated.
More information about meningococcal disease in college students is available from the American College Health Association.