UMass student diagnosed with meningococcal illness in stable condition

By Will Mallas

Collegian File Photo

The University of Massachusetts student diagnosed with a meningococcal illness last week is now in critical, yet stable condition according to Mary Dettloff, deputy director of news and media relations at UMass.

The student was diagnosed with bacterial Neisseria meningitidis, a bacteria that can cause meningitis. The student was taken to a nearby hospital following a visit to University Health Services (UHS) at UMass.

Dettloff ensured that the University has taken necessary precautions to make sure the illness does not spread.

“As a result of his contact with other students, a total of 98 students have received antibiotics as a precaution,” Dettloff said in a written statement. “No further cases of meningitis have been reported.”

According to Ann Becker, UHS public health nurse and a unit coordinator for the Medical Reserve Corps, the buildup of the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis can cause a meningococcal infection. The meningococcal infection can then cause meningitis, which results in inflammation of the meningi to the spinal cord or to the brain, or can cause a blood sepsis. Meningitis is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.

Becker also explained that Neisseria meningitidis can be somewhat contagious.

“It’s moderately contagious, not as contagious as other diseases…It is not contagious by just being airborne,” Becker said in a phone interview. “It has to be what’s called droplets, or the oral secretions of the sick person.”

Becker also emphasized the importance of receiving immunizations.

“I highly recommend [immunizations]; they don’t protect 100 percent but they do protect a great deal,” Becker said.

In an email sent out on October 25 to members of the UMass campus, George Corey, Executive Director of University Health Services, ensured campus residents that UMass is doing all it can to contain the spread of the bacteria.

“UHS is coordinating with local and state health officials and reaching out to people who may have been in close contact with the student and have the most significant risk of infection,” Dr. Corey said.

When asked about the incident of a meningococcal illness on campus, Michael Suchecki, a political science freshman, said that “ it’s not a good sign that we have illnesses like meningitis and more dangerous types of general infections going around campus, but I think that the way UMass has handled it in terms of being very upfront about it and informing the community and being able to contain the incident fairly early and deal with it accordingly, and the fact that we have not had any other cases… really speaks to the good job UMass has done in this situation.”

A gofundme account was created by the student’s fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, with a goal of $2,500.

In response to UHS’ initial email notice, Andre Kinne, an undeclared freshman at UMass is, “glad they acknowledged it [the case of Neisseria meningitidis], but it’s more what they should do for the future.”

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected]