February 7, 2013
Health officials at the University of Virginia are working to stop the spread of a deadly bacteria that has already infected one student. Bacterial meningitis is fatal for 15 percent of the people who get it.
The infected student is expected to recover. The student health office has contacted all of the student's family and close friends to make sure they are not showing any symptoms of bacterial meningitis.
The disease is contagious and can be spread through physical contact. Health officials say it is especially dangerous on college campuses, because students live and study in close proximity to each other. They warn students to not share utensils or drinking glasses.
Bacterial meningitis starts out feeling very much like the flu, with a fever and body aches. Hundreds of UVa students are battling the flu right now which makes it hard for health officials because they need to check all of them to make sure they don't actually have bacterial meningitis.
"It's the only infection I know of that can take an otherwise healthy 18 or 19-year-old person, and they can come into your office at eight o'clock in the morning, and by five in the afternoon they're on a ventilator in intensive care, in shock, clinging to life," said Dr. James Turner with the UVa Department of Student Health.
A vast majority of students are vaccinated against bacterial meningitis, but health officials are worried that the student who got infected has a strain that's immune to the vaccine.
Turner says patients with bacterial meningitis will often get a fever, then a very severe headache. Some of them also get a rash.
If you suspect that you have the disease, go to the doctor or the emergency room immediately.