April 28, 2004

More Information

Contact: Lynn Bretz, University Relations, (785) 864-8866 or Todd Cohen, (785) 864-8858

KU student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis

LAWRENCE – A 22-year-old senior in journalism who lives in Pearson Scholarship Hall at the University of Kansas has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and is being treated at The University of Kansas Hospital, according to KU health officials.

Dr. Myra Strother, chief of staff at Watkins Memorial Health Center at KU, said officials with Watkins and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department are in the process of identifying those who have been in direct contact with the student. They are offering preventive medication at Watkins, the universityˇs student health center.

Strother said that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend that only those who have had close contact with the student require the preventive treatment.

"Close personal contact occurs when saliva is exchanged, as when individuals share toothbrushes or drink from the same glass," Strother said. "Casual contact, such as sitting in the same classroom or working with an infected person is not considered to be in close contact and does not need to be treated."

Bacterial, or meningococcal, meningitis is a severe infection of the bloodstream and lining of the brain and spinal cord. It usually occurs as a single isolated event, but clusters of cases are possible.

Although most people exposed to the meningococcus germ do not become seriously ill, some may develop symptoms. These include fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a rash. The symptoms appear usually within five days. Anyone who does not develop symptoms 10 days after contact is no longer considered at risk.

Students and staff can get more information about meningitis either online or by calling Watkinsˇ health education line at (785) 864-9570, or Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department at (785) 843-0721 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. KU community members who believe they may have been exposed also may contact their private physician.

Students who live in Pearson Scholarship Hall or those who have worked closely with staff reporters at the University Daily Kansan in the past 10 days are encouraged to call the Watkins health line for more information.

Helpful links:

KU Watkins Memorial Health Center
Kansas Department of Health and Environment meningitis education facts (PDF)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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