Smith College student hospitalized with meningitis

Not confirmed if related to UMass outbreak


Caroline O'Connor

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

Smith College officials have announced that a student has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

The student, who resides off-campus, is “hospitalized and receiving appropriate care,” according to the college, which announced the diagnosis in a campus-wide email on Sunday.

“At this time, officials have not determined whether this case is related to the 2017 meningitis outbreak at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,” the email said.

The college also noted that they are working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to notify any individuals who were in close contact with the student.

The diagnosis follows an outbreak of Meningococcal disease at nearby UMass.

In an email to the UMass campus, Dr. George Corey, Executive Director of University Health Services, wrote the student “did not attend classes at UMass through the Five Colleges consortium.”

“While we await testing on the bacteria to see what strain of meningitis is responsible for the student’s illness, we want to emphasize that it remains vitally important that UMass students continue to get vaccinated for meningococcal disease,” Corey wrote. “To date, we have administered approximately 10,200 doses of Bexsero, the vaccine we are primarily using on campus.”

After the outbreak at UMass, Smith began offering the meningitis B vaccine at the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness in an effort to “protect and educate [the] community about this serious illness,” according to a November 2017 announcement from the college. “Smith College Insurance covers this vaccine, and most private insurers are covering it due to the outbreak.”

200 Smith students received the meningitis B vaccine at clinics hosted by the school, according to Western Mass News.

There are five strains of meningitis — four are covered by a vaccine required for all high school students attending college in Massachusetts, also according to Western Mass News. The fifth strain, Meningitis B, does not have a required vaccine for students.

Edward F. Blaguszewski, UMass Executive Director of Strategic Communications and Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, explained the continued commitment of UMass to “deal with the outbreak of meningococcal disease.”

“UMass has taken strong steps to deal with the outbreak of meningococcal disease on our campus, and our approach will remain the same,” Blaguszewski commented. “Strongly encouraging every UMass student to get a meningitis B vaccination at conveniently available clinics on campus and to maintain smart health practices.”

“We have been in touch with Smith and our other Five College health colleagues to provide assistance as needed based on our experience here at UMass.” Blaguszewski said.

Smith announced they will continue to provide updates as information becomes available, potentially including additional vaccination clinics “once the DPH has identified the specific strain of meningitis.”

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten.