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November 15, 2017

Second student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis on campus

(Collegian File Photo)

A second case of bacterial meningitis was diagnosed on Sunday, according to an email sent out by Dr. George A. Corey, executive director of University Health Services (UHS).

The update sent out Tuesday morning said the student diagnosed was living on campus in a residential hall and is now in stable condition in an area hospital.

“They are being provided safe and effective antibiotics that can reduce the possibility of infection,” Corey said in the email.

He also stated the student was not in close contact to the student diagnosed on Oct. 24, which raises the health center’s level of concern.

“UHS is working in consultation with federal and state public health officials, and will be updating advice as more information becomes available,” Corey stated.

The email also provided an update on the student previously diagnosed, confirming a case of a Serogroup B infection.

“The serogroup B strain is not covered by the meningitis vaccine required for college attendance, which does cover strains A, C, Y and W,” Corey said. “Therefore, as a precaution, students may want to receive the Serogroup B vaccine, which is available at UHS by appointment.”

The second student’s Serogroup should be known within a day or two, according to Ann Becker, UHS public health nurse and a unit coordinator for the Medical Reserve Corps.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Corey confirmed UHS has the vaccine in sufficient supply and “are fully ready to immunize all of those who wish to immunize to reduce the risk.”

Corey said the vaccine requires two doses one month apart. UHS is actively taking calls, scheduling appointments and giving the vaccine.

Ann Becker said about 40 students were given prophylactic antibiotics after having been in close contact with the first student diagnosed in October.  Becker also said the student first diagnosed is still in the hospital and is “much better.”

Becker gave a brief overview of meningococcal disease, saying cases in the United States have been declining. Strain B, which is prevalent in other countries, came to the United States in the early 2000s. The vaccine for Strain B came from abroad as well and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine has been available at UHS for the last two years.

Becker said the vaccine for Strain B would have to be mandated by the state health department before making it a requirement for incoming students.

Guan (Raymond) Chen, a senior Japanese language and literature and computer science double major found it “surprising that there are two isolated cases.”

Chen doesn’t plan to get the separate vaccine for Serogroup B vaccine.

“I know I probably should, but it’s not a huge concern for me right now,” he said.

“I wish they released which dorm the student was in, because if it was close to mine, I would be likely to actually get the vaccine,” Chen said.

Anna Charteris, a junior anthropology major, thinks “It’s a little scary.”

Since she lives off campus, she isn’t too concerned, but she thinks it is strange the two students did not have any contact with each other.,

“I don’t think I am going to get the vaccine,” Charteris said, but she plans to keep washing her hands and using hand sanitizer.

Muhammad Hakim is first year student transfer student from Malaysia and doesn’t know a lot about this disease, but he is planning on getting the vaccine as a precautionary measure. The electrical engineering sophomore said, “I think I will get the vaccine just for preparation…I think it would be good to take this vaccination.”

Hakim encouraged everyone to take the appropriate precautions.

“People should get vaccines,” he said. “I think it is better for you to prepare for the situations.”

 

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at acharpentier@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.

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