PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University freshman diagnosed with Type C meningococcal meningitis is expected to recover with no lasting problems, according to a health official at WSU Health and Wellness Services familiar with her case.
Dr. Bruce Wright, director of Health and Wellness Services, said the 18-year-old member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority was released from Sacred Heart Medical Center last week and is continuing her recovery at her parents’ home. She was diagnosed with the illness March 12 after seeking treatment at Health and Wellness Services and was flown to Spokane after physicians at HWS and Pullman Memorial Hospital stabilized her condition.
Wright said a quick diagnosis by medical staff in Pullman likely helped save the woman’s life. “Our medical staff are alert to medical problems that are found in college students,” he said. “Our nurses took one look and immediately prepared for her treatment as a physician was called. They hit the ground running.
“The PMH staff did an excellent job of treating the acute, severe complications of her illness and stabilizing her for transport to Sacred Heart,” Wright said.
College students tend to be more susceptible to the bacterial form of meningitis, an infectious inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Four WSU students have been diagnosed with the illness during the last seven years.
Even with the low incident rate, WSU health officials say college students should consider having the vaccine that can protect against four of the five types of bacterial meningitis, including the type contracted by the WSU student. Several hundred immunizations for meningitis are typically administered to WSU students each year. Wright said some 300 students were vaccinated in March and he expects more to get the vaccine in coming weeks.
The vaccine costs $65 and is available at the Health and Wellness Center. A single dose of the vaccine is recommended but it will not totally eliminate the risk of the disease. The vaccine protects against four out of five strains of N. meningitides, the bacteria that causes meningitis.
About 3,000 cases of meningococcal disease occur each year in the United States, and in 10 to 13 percent of cases, patients die despite receiving antibiotics early in the illness. Of those who survive, an additional 10 percent suffer sever aftereffects, including mental retardation, hearing loss and loss of limbs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.