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Health Alerts: Meningitis 

In an effort to help preserve the well-being of the Ohio University community, the content of this site provides answers to frequently asked questions about bacterial meningitis and the University's response to it.

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an acute bacterial disease. It is caused by a specific bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis, of which there are several types. The bacterial organism's reservoir is in humans. Five to 10 percent of people may be asymptomatic carriers of the bacterium, where it can be found in the nose and throat area. A small fraction of these carriers can progress to invasive disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis in people?

Bacterial meningitis is characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense headache, nausea, and sometimes vomiting, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light. The disease may also involve a rash, that begins as clusters of small pricks and develops into purple bruising.

While the susceptibility to the clinical disease is low, bacterial meningitis can progress rapidly and have very serious and sometimes tragic health consequences. Bacterial meningitis is responsible for approximately 300 deaths annually in the U.S.

What measures does Ohio University take when a student contracts bacterial meningitis?

If a case of bacterial meningitis occurs at Ohio University, an e-mail message is sent out to all students, faculty, staff and parents (for whom the University has an e-mail contact), alerting them of the situation. All students in the infected student's classes, identified student organizations, and residence hall are also notified separately.

If the infected student resides in a residence hall, his or her roommate(s) are offered another room in which to temporarily reside. Meanwhile, the student's room and common areas of his or her residence hall are disinfected. This disinfection is precautionary. While it is known that bacterial meningitis is not an environmentally spread bacterium, disinfection often takes place before confirmation of the illness is received.

Following known cases of bacterial meningitis, the Campus Care Clinic also provides a preventive antibiotic — a 500 mg dose of Cipro — for students who have been in close contact with the ill student and who may wish to receive it.

What other University resources are available?

Reports on bacterial meningitis may cause anyone to experience feelings of uneasiness or worry. Ohio University has resources available to assist with these feelings of anxiety and moving towards a positive outlook. Students are reminded that they can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) 24 hours a day/seven days a week at 740-593-1616 to speak with a counselor. Walk-in hours are available from the CPS office at the Campus Care Clinic from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. CPS also provides consultation to faculty, administrators, and parents of students.

Who is at risk and how great is the risk for meningitis?

More information on meningitis risks and rates is available at www.ohio.edu/healthalerts/meningitis/risks.cfm

Is the disease preventable?

Find more information on prevention and vaccinations at www.ohio.edu/healthalerts/meningitis/prevention.cfm.