PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University student was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis after seeking treatment at the WSU Health and Wellness Services today (March 12).

The 18-year-old freshman, a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, was treated at Pullman Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. She is listed in critical condition.

Meningitis is the infectious inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. While meningococcal meningitis is not a highly contagious illness, individuals in close contact with someone diagnosed with this illness need to receive antibiotic treatment to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. Close contacts are defined as roommates, housemates or family members; those who have shared eating, drinking or smoking materials; and those who have had sexual contact with the individual within 10 days prior to the diagnosis of the illness.

Dr. Bruce Wright, director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said health officers have identified the patient?s close contacts so that antibiotics can be administered as a precaution. He said the situation poses no threat to the general public.

Successful treatment of the illness is dependent on prompt treatment, Wright said. Symptoms of the illness include severe headaches, stiff neck, extreme nausea, vomiting, rash, lethargy and high fever. Wright said the illness can feel like a bad case of the flu, and those with symptoms should seek treatment immediately.

Students who believe they may have had direct contact with this individual should contact Health and Wellness Services at (509) 335-3575. Those who are not students should contact the Whitman County Public Health Department at (509) 397-6280.