[Press Release] Second meningitis case identified at OSU

Benton County (Logo)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A second undergraduate student attending Oregon State University in Corvallis is being treated at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center (GSRMC) for meningococcal disease. The strain has not yet been identified.

This student entered the hospital Wednesday night and is reported by hospital officials to be in good condition.

On Sunday, another OSU undergraduate student was hospitalized and is being treated at GSRMC for meningococcal disease. That student also is in good condition.

“We understand that news of these students being diagnosed with meningococcal disease is very concerning for the families of these students, as well as our general student body and their families, and OSU faculty and staff. We know the general public is also concerned,” said Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations at Oregon State University. “The safety and health of the OSU community is our top priority.”

“We are working with the Benton County Health Department, the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, GSRMC and OSU Student Health Services,” Clark said. “All involved recognize that the public’s health and safety is primary. We also want to address concerns that may result from these reported cases of illness. We are acting to fully serve and respond to these cases; prevent as we are able further spread of illness; fully and immediately inform the public; and respond to questions and concerns.”

Benton County health officials are investigating both meningococcal disease cases to identify close contacts and determine whether the cases are related.

“Meningococcal disease is a serious condition,” said Charlie Fautin, deputy director at the Benton County Health Department.

“We continue to communicate with Oregon State University officials, local medical providers, state public health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as family and friends of both patients to identify anyone who may have had enough close exposure to require preventive antibiotic treatment.”

Approximately 160 people who have been in contact with these students have been provided preventive antibiotics.

“Even while this is a public health matter, we all must realize that individual medical care and privacy is a priority and a requirement in our response,” Fautin said. “Protecting the privacy of infected and potentially exposed individuals is of high concern, and we act carefully in these cases, even while we act immediately.”

Clark said that Oregon State University has issued daily communications to students, faculty and staff this week, and Wednesday issued a general update communication to parents for whom the university has e-mail addresses. The second student identified with meningococcal disease resides in an OSU residence hall, while the first student lives in a private residence. University Housing and Dining Services officials will provide communications regarding this health-related matter throughout all residence halls on Thursday evening.

“Our goal is to inform and provide a clear sense of what this disease is; who may be at risk; how a person may recognize symptoms of the disease; what a person should do if they recognize the symptoms; and how our students, faculty, staff and the public can prevent being affected,” Clark said. “We want to address concerns, while helping to alleviate anxiety.”

Symptoms of meningococcal disease are high fever, headache, stiff neck, exhaustion, nausea, rash, vomiting and diarrhea. Some people do not get meningitis, but they contract an infection of the bloodstream, which causes fever and a rash.

County health officials said individuals who have spent at least four hours cumulatively in close, face-to-face association with a person suffering from meningococcal disease within seven days before the illness started are most at risk of catching meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease is not highly contagious and is transmitted only through direct contact with droplets from an ill person coughing or sneezing; other discharges from the nose or throat; by sharing of eating and drinking utensils, smoking devices; or intimate contact.

“It is important to monitor your own health,” said Dr. Bruce Thomson, Benton County health officer. “Remember, symptoms specific to the disease are high fever, headache, stiff neck, exhaustion, nausea, rash, vomiting and diarrhea. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please immediately visit your primary care physician or a nearby urgent care medical clinic or emergency room.”

OSU students experiencing these symptoms should visit OSU Student Health Services located in the Plageman Building, at 108 S.W. Memorial Place.

More information on meningococcal disease is available by calling the OSU Student Health Services Nurse Advice line at 541-737-2724 or Benton County Health Department communicable disease nurses at 541-766-6835 or by visiting StudentHealth.OregonState.edu or Public.Health.Oregon.gov.

More information will be provided as available.

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