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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

Meningitis cases keep PSU busy during break

University, health workers trying to contact residents who shared dormitory where infected students lived

December 28, 2003

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— No new cases of bacterial meningitis were reported at Pittsburg State University, where two students who lived on different floors of the same residence hall were diagnosed last week with the disease.

One of the students was recovering at home Friday and the other remained in a hospital, said Ron Womble, Pittsburg State's director of media relations. Their names have not been made public because of federal health privacy laws.

Meanwhile, university and public health officials were trying to reach 38 other residents of Trout Hall dormitory to urge them to see a physician.

Janis Goedeke, a Crawford County health officer, said about 10 residents had let officials know by Friday that they had received the notification and were contacting their doctors.

Health officials said the infected students contracted the illness during the week of Dec. 15 and began displaying symptoms Dec. 18 and 19. The were diagnosed and hospitalized after returning to their hometowns for the holidays.

Symptoms include high fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort when looking at bright lights, confusion and sleepiness.

If diagnosed early, the illness can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Experts say anyone who has been exposed to someone infected with bacterial meningitis should begin antibiotic treatment.

Goedeke said her office had received calls from people who did not live in Trout Hall but were close friends with a resident there. She said they wanted to know about their risk of exposure.

"It takes direct contact with someone who's infected before a person can become ill," she said.

The bacteria are spread through a cough or a sneeze, kissing, or eating or drinking after an infected person.

She said that the two infected students had been questioned about people they had come in contact with who did not live in the dormitory, and that those people had been notified.

Meningitis is an infection of the spinal cord fluid and the fluid surrounding the brain. It is sometimes referred to as spinal meningitis and can be severe, resulting in brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities or, in some cases, death if untreated. Another type of meningitis, viral, is not as dangerous as bacterial meningitis.

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