A University of Michigan student tested positive for meningococcal meningitis, according to an email from University of Michigan Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani and Lindsey Mortenson, University Health service medical directors Thursday night.
The student was recently present at a Delta Kappa Epsilon event on Jan. 20 from 10:30 p.m to 12:00 a.m. They also attended an off-campus ticketed event at Michigan State University on Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Sigma Beta Rho house in East Lansing. The student started experiencing symptoms on Monday, Jan. 24.
Meningitis is a rare and serious bacterial infection; however, vaccines can prevent it. It involves an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and can lead to permanent disabilities. Common symptoms of meningitis include a fever, stiff neck, headache, rash and vomiting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people recover, but meningitis can occasionally lead to death within a few hours of contracting the disease.
In a Thursday press release from the Washtenaw County Health Department, officials urged students who may have been in contact with the individual to complete an online survey through UHS. According to the Health Department, points of contact can include being coughed on, being sneezed on, kissing, sharing food or being in a crowded space with an infected individual.
In the press release, WCHD medical director Juan Luis Marquez said the health department is currently working with the University to identify any close contacts and distribute treatment as needed.
“This is not an outbreak and risk to the larger community remains low, but meningococcal meningitis is a very serious illness,” Marquez said. “We are working as quickly and collaboratively as possible to provide information and treatment options to anyone with potential and direct exposure to the known case.”
The disease is spread by respiratory droplets such as those from saliva and is only treatable with antibiotics. In their email to the campus community, Malani and Mortenson said they are taking the case seriously and are encouraging any students who are worried they may have been in close contact with the positive individual to receive the necessary prophylactic antibiotic treatment as a preventative measure as soon as possible.
“Prophylaxis is recommended within 14 days of exposure regardless of meningococcal vaccination status,” Malani and Mortenson wrote. “Prophylaxis is available for free through the University Health Service to any students who may have been close contacts.”
In a statement from Delta Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity Staff Friday evening, executive director Doug Lanpher said the safety of the fraternity members and guests is of most importance.
“The safety of all members and guests is always the top priority of our Fraternity,” Lanpher wrote in the statement.
The statement also says none of the Fraternity members have tested positive for meningitis or show symptoms at this time. The organization encourages their members to start prophylaxis treatment immediately while consulting family and health providers.
The University recommends that all first-year students living in residence halls receive the meningitis vaccination before coming to campus, though it is not required. In the email, Malani and Mortenson encouraged students to check if they have received the meningitis vaccination.
“Highly effective vaccines are available to protect against meningococcal meningitis,” Malani and Mortenson wrote. “Now is a good time to ensure you have received or are up to date on your meningitis vaccinations.”
UHS routinely offers two different meningitis vaccinations for students and other UHS patients.
Daily Staff Reporter Ashna Mehra can be reached at email@example.com.
Update: This story has been updated with a statement from Delta Kappa Epsilon.