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UVa Student Health Dept. Taking Control of Meningitis Case

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

February 12, 2013

Doctors have confirmed the student infected with meningitis at UVa is expected to have an uneventful recovery and will be fine. But this particular case and bacteria are being closely watched.

College students are in close quarters all the time. In dorms, apartments, out on the weekends and even in class.

One UVa student is infected by meningitis but it's a little unique.

"There are 5 major strings that cause the disease. Four of the major strings are covered by a vaccine, which 95% of our students have received," said Dr. James Turner, the Executive Director of the Student Health Department at UVa.

He says doctors discovered, however, that the student has the one type of bacteria string that is not protected by the vaccine.

"Students live in crowded conditions, they learn in crowded conditions, they socialize in crowded conditions," Turner says. "This simply facilitates the process of passing respitory secretions from one person to the next."

Respiratory secretions could be through the nose or mouth. They've reached out to 51 students who could have had close-quarters contact with the student who is infected to take antibiotics to kill any bacteria inside of their nose or mouth.

"In a public space like the library, where us grad students often frequent, it could potentially be a contaminator so we've definitely have realized to be a little more cautious," said Elizabether Kaknes, a graduate student at UVa.

Some students say since they do not know the student who's infected, they're not too worried about it and haven't changed their habits. But Kaknes says she's starting to make some changes for herself.

"Now I definitely need to make sure I'm not sharing any chapsticks or any girly things or sharing drinks with people," she said.

Turner says it wouldn't be unusual for additional cases to pop up because this bacteria will circulate around healthy people.

"We don't know for sure why they get sick, so we're going to watch very carefully over the next couple of weeks to make sure there are no more cases," Turner said.

The Student Health Department is teaming up with UVa Medical Center and the Emergency Department to enhance surveillance of this bacteria on grounds.

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