Meningitis Kills UVa Student

By: Venton Blandin
By: Venton Blandin
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September 11, 2006

A deadly disease claimed the life of a University of Virginia Student.

Twenty-one year old Jennifer Leigh Wells died last weekend from a form of meningitis. Now, UVa officials are trying to make sure more cases do not pop up.

Almost 20,000 students go to the University of Virginia. One of them is now dead after contracting bacterial meningitis.

"It's definitely a big shock, but I think most of have gotten our shots, and UVa has been careful about this case," said Third Year University of Virginia Student Camila Rivera.

The case involves a fourth year student who died at the UVa Medical Center on Saturday.

"She was quite critically ill, and they were not certain she was going to survive because she was so very, very ill," said UVa's Student Health Affairs Director Dr. James Turner.

Meningitis is an infection of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Types of meningitis vary, and the one that killed the UVa student is unknown.

The student did not live on grounds, so other students should not worry about contracting the disease.

"The public at large is not as risk for this. Bacterial meningitis is not spread very easily, and it's really only spread through very close contact," said Dr. Lilian Peake of the Thomas Jefferson Health Department.

However, students were notified in an email three days later about the woman's death.

"It was just kind of informative. They wanted to make sure we knew what was going on in case people heard about what happened. They wanted make sure everyone knew it was an isolated case," said UVa Graduate Student James Huemoeller.

It is the first case of meningitis at UVa in 10 years.

State law requires students to take shots to fight bacterial meningitis, but allow an option to waive taking them. There are five strains of the disease, and the shots only protect against four.

UVa's Director of Student Health Affairs says only about five percent of students opted not to take the shots. We were not able to confirm if the student who died was one of them.

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