From staff reports
An Ohio University student transported Saturday night to a Columbus hospital is reported to be recovering today from a case of bacterial meningitis. Ohio University police took the Crawford Hall resident to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital after being summoned by roommates and residence hall staff. He was immediately transferred to Columbus.
On Sunday, the university shared information about the illness and preventive treatment with those who were most likely in contact with the student.
At about 1:30 p.m. today, (Monday, Feb. 16, 2009), Ohio University received a report of a second probable case of meningitis. That student, a James Hall resident, was being transferred this afternoon to a medical facility outside Athens.
Bacterial meningitis -- though rare and not as transmissible as the common cold or flu -- can pass from one person to another through contact with saliva, such as by touching, kissing, drinking from the same cup, or being very near someone who sneezes. Studies show that meningitis bacteria can't live outside of the body for more than a few minutes. Therefore, infection from the environment is not likely.
A serious illness that progresses quickly and can be fatal, bacterial meningitis infects the linings of the brain and spinal cord. The earlier meningitis is caught, the better chances are for recovery. Some 1,400 to 3,000 cases occur in this country each year, with about 100 to 125 of those on college campuses, according to the American College Health Association.
Common symptoms include severe headache, stiff neck, fever, disorientation, lethargy, nausea and vomiting. Because symptoms mimic more common illnesses, people should seek immediate treatment if these symptoms develop -- especially if they occur suddenly.
On Sunday, Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi and Director of Student Medical Services John Cunningham met with Crawford Hall residents who live on the affected student's floor. Cunningham provided information about the disease, answered questions and referred exposed individuals to Hudson Health Center, where they could receive a prophylactic antibiotic that will lessen their chances of becoming infected. They also contacted other students outside the hall who could have been with the ill student recently. Lombardi will meet tonight and Tuesday with additional groups of students who may have had contact with either of the students.
Today, Student Affairs issued a text message to students and employees who are signed up for emergency notifications and e-mailed parents who have provided the university with their e-mail addresses. The communications will direct recipients to this message on the university Web site.
"We wanted to err on the side of caution, making sure that close contacts were aware and informed so they could decide if they wanted to pursue the antibiotic," Lombardi said.
The Office of the Dean of Students will be available to take questions until 8 p.m. today at 740-593-1800.
If you have a concern about exposure or have symptoms described above, you should see a health care provider immediately. Hudson Health Center will have extended hours until 8 p.m. tonight and will provide the prophylactic antibiotic. For information on hours, visit www.ohio.edu/hudson/shs/.
If you experience symptoms after 8 p.m., you should visit the O'Bleness Memorial Hospital emergency room.
For additional information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's frequently asked questions at www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial/faqs.htm.
Vaccinations to prevent bacterial meningitis are available from health care providers and at the Student Medical Services at Hudson Health Center and are recommended for those living in residence halls and fraternity or sorority houses.
Updated Feb. 17, 2009.