From staff reports
Two Ohio University students diagnosed with bacterial meningitis are stable and improving, according to family members.
On Monday, a freshman student who lives in Crawford Hall was diagnosed with the illness. Ohio University police transported him Saturday to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, and he later was transferred to a Columbus hospital.
A second Ohio University student was diagnosed with the illness later Monday. The student, a freshman who lives in James Hall, was transferred to an Ohio hospital near his home.
Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi is in regular communication with both students' families.
Bacterial meningitis -- although 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 kissing or coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
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.
Hudson Health Center has administered prophylactic antibiotics to 79 students and vaccines to seven students as of Monday evening. The antibiotic lessens individuals' chances of becoming infected, but is not 100 percent effective in preventing the illness. Hudson Health Center is open until 7 p.m. today.
Some 1,400 to 3,000 cases of meningitis occur in this country each year, with about 100 to 125 of those on college campuses, according to the American College Health Association.
"We are making every effort to contact students who may have been in close contact with these students to make sure they know about the antibiotic and are aware of common symptoms," Lombardi said. "We want students to take every precaution and to educate themselves appropriately."
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.
Lombardi said the two affected students share a class, but he was unaware of any other connection between them. His understanding is that they do not know each other personally. He is meeting today with members of the class.
Lombardi and Director of Student Medical Services John Cunningham also have met with Crawford and James hall residents who live on the students' floors and also contacted other students outside the halls who could have been with the ill students recently.
University employees also have thoroughly cleaned the two students' rooms and the bathrooms on their residence hall floors, although studies show that the bacteria that can cause meningitis can't live outside of the body for more than a few minutes, making infection from the environment unlikely. The students closest to them have received the antibiotics.
The family of the James Hall student indicated their son had received the vaccine.
According to the American College Health Association, the meningococcal vaccine provides protection against four of the five types of the bacteria that cause meningitis in the United States -- types A, C, Y and W-135. In people 15 to 24 years of age, 70 percent to 80 percent of cases are caused by potentially vaccine-preventable strains.
The Dean of Students Office remained open until 8 p.m. Monday to answer questions and provide information to parents and students. Lombardi said about 30 calls were logged by the office, which can be reached at 740-593-1800.
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.
Those who have a concern about exposure or have symptoms described above should see a health care provider immediately. Information on Hudson Health Center is available at www.ohio.edu/hudson/shs/.
If individuals experience symptoms and the health center is closed, they should visit the O'Bleness Memorial Hospital emergency room, 55 Hospital Drive, Athens.
For additional information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's frequently asked questions at www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial/faqs.htm and information from the American College Health Association at www.acha.org/projects_programs/meningitis/.