Marshall University officials today were notified that a student has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The student became ill over the weekend and has been hospitalized since yesterday.
University health officials are responding immediately to help ensure the safety of the university community per guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in consultation with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
According to the CDC, although bacterial meningitis is contagious, it is not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where an infected individual has been. The disease is usually transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory secretions such as when coughing, sharing drinks, kissing or being in close proximity to someone affected for an extended period of time. A course of antibiotics is normally recommended for those who have had such contact with an individual with a confirmed diagnosis. Antibiotics are not recommended for casual classroom contact.
People who may have been in sustained, close contact with the Marshall student are being identified, screened and advised if they should begin a dosage of preventative antibiotics.
Bacterial meningitis is treatable but requires immediate medical attention. According to the CDC, symptoms typically develop within three to seven days after exposure and include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash, sleepiness, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental state. Anyone exhibiting these symptoms should contact their medical care provider immediately.
Amy Saunders of Marshall’s Student Health Education Program said the risk of contracting meningitis is low and additional cases are unlikely. She added that the risk is even lower for people who have received the vaccination, which is recommended but not required for Marshall students.
Health department officials will be on hand tomorrow, Wednesday, May 4, to answer questions from students, faculty and staff from noon to 3 p.m. in the Counseling Center located on the first floor of Pritchard Hall.
Students with questions or concerns can also contact Student Health Services. For information about the hours and location of Student Health, visit www.marshall.edu/studenthealth.
For more information about bacterial meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html.
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