PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University freshman diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis appears to have improved slightly today (March 13), according to a health official at WSU Health and Wellness Services familiar with her case.

Dr. Bruce Wright, director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said the 18-year-old was reportedly awake, alert and off a ventilator Wednesday morning.

Since the woman’s diagnosis Tuesday, WSU Health and Wellness Services staff have talked with hundreds of students about meningococcal meningitis and administered nearly 200 doses of antibiotics to those who may have come in close contact as a precaution. He said the situation poses no threat to the general public. No other cases have been reported.

The WSU student who contracted the disease is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She was treated at Pullman Memorial Hospital after seeking treatment at WSU Health and Wellness Services and then transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

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.

Successful treatment of the illness is dependent on prompt treatment. 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 WSU 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.