Student treated for meningitis

BY WHITNEY ELLIOTT
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 11, 2001

A University student was diagnosed with viral meningitis on Monday in a local hospital after feeling flu-like symptoms during the weekend.

"At first I thought it was the flu," said the student, who has been at home since the diagnosis. "On Thursday it started with an intense fever. I slept for 18 hours straight, but the fever never went away. The back of my neck was sore. I went to the hospital Monday they had to do a spinal tap."

Interim Director of University Health Services Robert Winfield said viral meningitis, which can be caused by a variety of viruses, usually leaves the body within a week. Unlike bacterial meningitis caused by the Meningococcus bacteria, the chance of contracting viral meningitis does not increase in mass-living situations such as residence halls or fraternity and sorority houses.

"The viral meningitis disease is much less dangerous (than bacterial meningitis), though it makes people feel quite ill. It"s uncommon for it to be fatal," Winfield said. "There is a fourfold increase in the incidence of bacterial meningitis in freshmen living in residence halls."

The student, who asked that his name not be printed, said he does not know if anyone he knows has viral meningitis, but recommends anyone experiencing persistent flu symptoms to be checked out at the hospital.

Jon Russell, an LSA junior who lives with the student in a fraternity house on campus, said members of the house went to the hospital after the student was diagnosed to make sure they had not contracted the disease.

"We haven"t been tested. They basically told us there"s nothing we can do. It"s spread through the air," Russell said.

Russell said the doctors and nurses at University Hospitals said the fraternity members would have to wait to see if they developed symptoms of meningitis.

Winfield said UHS has offered a vaccine for bacterial meningitis, but a vaccine for viral meningitis is not available.

"There is no vaccine (for viral meningitis). Bacterial meningitis is caused by Meningococcus which is much more serious. We don"t strongly encourage, but we offer (a vaccine for bacterial meningitis). Vaccine programs have been offered in the fall," Winfield said.