PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University student was diagnosed on Wednesday (March 31) with meningococcemia, a bacterial infection of the blood caused by the same organism as meningococcal meningitis.
The student, a 19-year-old woman and member of Alpha Phi Sorority, had gone to the emergency room at Pullman Memorial Hospital last week with nausea, vomiting, chills, fever and dehydration and was treated with an antibiotic. The diagnosis of meningococcemia was made when test results became available Wednesday. The student did not require hospitalization and is recovering.
Bruce Wright, director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said that staff members from his office and from the Whitman County Public Health Department are identifying close contacts of the student and administering antibiotics to those individuals as a precaution. Health and Wellness Services staff will also meet with Alpha Phi Sorority members today to provide more information about the illness, answer questions and identify contacts who may require antibiotics. Wright said no other cases of the disease have been found.
Those who have come in close contact with someone diagnosed with the illness should receive antibiotics to further reduce their risk of contracting the disease. Close contacts are considered to be housemates or family members, those who have shared eating, drinking or smoking materials and those who have had sexual contact with affected individuals within 10 days prior to the diagnosis of the illness. Symptoms of meningococcemia include high fever, rash, nausea, vomiting and joint pains. Symptoms of meningitis include severe headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash, lethargy and high fever. Both conditions may resemble the flu.
Wright said all students should become informed about meningococcal disease and should consider the vaccination against it. Students who live or have recently lived in dense residential living areas such as residence halls, fraternities and sororities should obtain the vaccine because students in these living areas are at an elevated risk for meningococcal disease. The vaccine is available to WSU students at Health and Wellness Services in Pullman.
WSU students may contact Health and Wellness Services at (509) 335-3575 for more information about meningococcal disease and vaccination or visit its Web site at www.hws.wsu.edu. Information can also be found at the following Web sites: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov, and the American College Health Association, www.acha.org.
Non-WSU students who would like to be vaccinated, believe they might require treatment or have other questions about meningococcal disease should contact their personal health care provider.