PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University student has been diagnosed with a meningococcal infection of the blood, but tests show the student does not have meningitis.
Dr. Bruce Wright, director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said he is confident the situation poses no significant threat to other students or the general population. He said health officers have interviewed the patient and close associates to determine the potential for spread of the bacteria. Examinations of individuals who have had close contact with the patient are underway.
Wright said the individual is a male student who had been living alone in Waller Hall. He was admitted to Pullman Memorial Hospital Feb. 8 for treatment with antibiotics and is now recovering.
The meningococcal bacteria is quite common and lives naturally in the back of the nose and throat, or the upper respiratory tract, according to Wright. Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the population carry the bacteria which only rarely overcomes the body’s defenses to cause meningitis.
Wright said that for others to become infected, they would need to have had either direct or indirect oral contact with the patient or with objects the infected patient had oral contact with. Examples include sharing a drink or smoking items. Casual contact, such as sitting in class next to someone with the disease, does not constitute the type of exposure needed for the disease to be transmitted.
Students concerned about possible exposure should contact the WSU Health and Wellness Office at 509/335-3575 or call their own doctors. Non-students may talk with the staff at the Whitman County Health Department at 509/397-6280.
Editors and reporters: Dr. Wright can be contacted at 509/335-6870.