PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University student was diagnosed Friday with meningococcemia, a bacterial infection of the blood that is caused by the same organism as meningococcal meningitis.
Many strains of the bacteria, Neisseria Meningitides, are preventable by vaccine. Although it is not highly contagious, health officials are encouraging students to consider receiving the vaccine because they are in a slightly higher risk category. The student did not have meningitis, an infection of the linings of the brain.
The 19-year-old freshman, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, is expected to make a full recovery. She was admitted to Pullman Memorial Hospital last week and treated with intravenous antibiotics over the weekend. Her condition stabilized rapidly, and she was discharged today (April 29).
Health officials have contacted the close contacts of the student diagnosed with meningococcemia and administered antibiotics as a precaution.
Symptoms of meningococcemia include high fever, chills, rash, nausea, vomiting and lethargy. Symptoms of meningitis include severe headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash, lethargy and high fever. Both conditions may resemble the flu. Those with symptoms should seek treatment immediately.
Neisseria meningitidis is carried by up to 10 percent of the population in the nose and throat. Only rarely does the bacterium penetrate into the blood stream to cause meningococcemia or into the brain to cause meningitis. This is more likely to happen when people’s immune systems are weakened because of fatigue, sleep deprivation or other illnesses.
Individuals who have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with either illness need to receive antibiotics 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.
For more information about the vaccine, contact HWS at (509) 335-3575 or the Whitman County Public Health Department at (509) 397-6280.