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Archive for Thursday, December 25, 2003

Pittsburg State dorm residents diagnosed with rare meningitis

December 25, 2003

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— Two Pittsburg State University students living in the same dormitory have contracted an uncommon form of bacterial meningitis, state and local health officials said Wednesday.

Both students are hospitalized, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The agency declined to give any more details about the students, citing federal privacy laws.

The university started late Tuesday to contact the 103 students who live in the dormitory, Trout Hall, to recommend that they see their doctors and start taking antibiotics, Watson said.

Meningitis is an infection of the spinal cord fluid and the fluid around the brain, leading to swelling in the lining around both. With the bacteria that caused the students' cases, meningitis can lead to hearing loss, mental retardation, amputations and even death.

The state has recorded four such meningitis cases this year, Watson said, compared with four in 2002, 10 in 2001 and seven in 2000. The last recorded death was in 1999, but information for this year is not yet available.

"It can be a very serious illness," Watson said. "It's not very common."

KDHE said the students probably were exposed to the disease last week, when the university had final exams. The students showed symptoms of the disease within four days.

The disease is spread by personal contact through oral or respiratory fluids. Examples of such contact include kissing and drinking after another person, said Janis Goedeke, health officer for the Crawford County Health Department.

"It's not something we deal with every year," Goedeke said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, between 10 percent and 15 percent of such meningitis cases are fatal. Of the patients who recover, between 10 percent and 15 percent suffer hearing loss, mental retardation, amputations or other serious effects. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, intense headaches and a stiff neck.

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