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CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-5661; fax (319) 335-9917
e-mail:jennifer-cronin@uiowa.edu

Release: April 23, 1999

UI takes precautions after student hospitalized with meningitis infection

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Health officials at the University of Iowa are taking a number of precautionary steps following the hospitalization of a student with a probable case of bacterial meningitis. The student, who has not been publicly identified, was in good condition Friday, April 23 at Mercy Hospital.

Meningitis is an infection or inflammation of the meninges, the lining around the brain and spinal column. In most causes, it is spread by a respiratory route. Symptoms for meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck, skin rash and arthritis. Anyone who has a headache and a stiff neck or suddenly develops a high fever should see a physician or go to an emergency room.

The infection can lead to death or to severe damage of the brain or other organs if left untreated. However, most people are not at risk, said Larry Afifi, nurse manager at UI Student Health Service.

"You cannot catch it just by sitting by someone," she said. "It takes really close contact in order to transmit the infection."

Because the infection is most often spread through close contact with the person who has it, UI officials have taken steps to identify students and others who may have had close contact with the affected student. Close contact can include sharing items such as a toothbrush, drinking glass or eating utensils, or sharing bodily fluids.

These are the precautionary steps that have been taken:

    • Treating the affected student's roommates with a drug that works well as a preventive therapy.
    • Meeting with students who live on the same residence hall floor as the infected student. Representatives from Student Health Service and Residence Services will provide information on the cause and symptoms of the disease as well as the treatments used to prevent the spread of the disease.
    • Contacting other students who have been identified as high risk because of close contact.

This is the first reported case of meningitis at the UI this academic year. The last infection occurred in May 1998.

Students or others who have questions about possible contact are encouraged to call the UI Student Health Service Nurse Line at (319) 335-9704 or the main line at (319) 335-8370.