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7th Possible Case of Meningitis Reported at Princeton University

The latest case is a male student who developed symptoms on Nov. 9.

The NJ Department of Health reports a possible seventh case of invasive meningococcal disease associated with Princeton University. The case was reported to state officials on Nov. 10. 

The latest possible case is a male student who developed symptoms of meningococcal disease on Nov. 9. This student is hospitalized. The investigation is ongoing and laboratory data is pending.  

The NJDOH, local health officials, and Princeton University Health Services, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are monitoring the situation and identify cases and their close contacts. 

At this time, there are no recommendations to cancel any activities or scheduled events on the Princeton Campus. There are also no recommendations for the surrounding community to avoid contact with the campus or Princeton students. 

The previous cases associated with Princeton University are:
  • The first case was a female student away from campus for spring recess who developed symptoms of meningococcal disease on March 22 when returning to the area. She has recovered.
  • The second case was a visitor to campus from April 6-8, who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis after returning to another state. This case is followed by another state’s health department.
  • The third case is a male student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis on May 7. He has recovered. 
  • The fourth case is a male student who lives out of state. He developed symptoms on May 19 on his way home for summer recess. He has recovered. 
  • The fifth case is a male student who developed symptoms on June 29 while traveling abroad. He has recovered. 
  • The sixth case is a female student who developed symptoms on Oct. 1. She is recovering. 
According to state officials, all six cases are caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup (type) B. Five of the six have the identical strain of the bacteria. One case has similar strain characteristics but it cannot be determined whether it is an exact match to the strain identified in the previous cases due to limitations in testing capabilities.

The meningococcal vaccine provides protection against four different serogroups (types) of the meningococcal infection - A, C, Y and W-135. There is currently no vaccine licensed in the U.S. that covers serogroup B.

No common link has been identified among the cases at Princeton University, state officials said.

Meningococcal disease can be spread from person to person by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions during close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if living in the same dorm or household.

Many carry the bacteria in their throats without getting meningococcal disease. Although anyone can get meningococcal disease, adolescents and college freshmen who live in dormitories are at an increased risk.

You can help prevent the spread of illnesses by:  
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.   
  • Wash your hands, especially before eating.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • Avoid sharing utensils, water bottles or other items contaminated by saliva or respiratory  secretions. 
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake. 
  • Eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest.  
  • Remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease. 
  • If sick, stay home fromschool or work to prevent the spread of disease to others. 
People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (saliva) (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease.

There is no recommendation for the surrounding community to avoid contact with Princeton or Princeton students. Sporadic cases of meningococcal disease are not unusual on residential campuses. The bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are less infectious than the viruses that cause the flu.

For the full list of persons recommended by the CDC for meningococcal vaccination, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/mening/who-vaccinate.htm   

The early symptoms of meningococcal disease include:
  • Fever
  • Headache 
  • Body aches  
  • Feeling very tired or sleepy 
  • Other symptoms that may occur: stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, sensitivity to light.  
  • In newborns and infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. 
  • In young children, doctors may also look at the child’s reflexes, which can also be a sign of meningitis.
Left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly, often within hours of the first symptoms, and can lead to shock, death or serious complications, including hearing loss, brain damage, kidney disease, or limb amputations. Individuals with symptoms of meningococcal disease should seek medical care immediately. 

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