The University Record, March 11, 1997

No cases of meningitis on U-M campus but community warned to be cautious

While there have been no cases of meningococcal (bacterial) meningitis reported on campus, University officials are cautioning students, faculty and staff to be aware of symptoms and to call the Health Service immediately if they are experiencing symptoms or think they may have been exposed to infected persons.

One Eastern Michigan University student, diagnosed with meningococcemia, a systemic infection, died March 4, and two at Michigan State University have died from meningococcal meningitis.

Two other MSU students were diagnosed with viral meningitis in February, a milder and generally self-limited form of the disease caused by a virus rather than bacteria. The most recent case of meningococcal meningitis on the U-M campus was reported in October 1995.

"The current incidence of meningococcal meningitis is quite typical, and there is no cause for particular alarm," says Hernan Drobny, a physician with Clinical Services, University Health Service. He adds, "Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but potentially dangerous illness, however, that progresses rapidly following appearance of the initial symptoms. The risk for contracting the disease is low but it is higher for those who have had direct contact with an infected person. Kissing, sharing a drinking glass or toothbrush, or living in the same household with a carrier for an extended period of time can place a person at risk."

Those who know they have had direct contact with an infected person can be treated very effectively with prophylactic antibiotics before symptoms appear, and should contact the Health Service or a physician immediately, Drobny emphasized. This bacteria is not transmitted by food handlers or through food.

"The University has a public health system in place that includes the U-M Health Service, Employee Health Services at the U-M hospitals, and the Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health [OSEH]," says Michael G. Hanna, OSEH biosafety officer. "All these units are in contact and are monitoring the situation in the county."

Some common early symptoms include fever, severe headache, sensitivity to light, a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy.

For more information or concern about symptoms, call the Nurse Clinic at University Health Service 8 a.m-5 p.m. at 763-4511. Call On-Call services at 662-5674 5-10 p.m. After 10 p.m., go to the Emergency Department at University Hospital, 936-6666.