Meningitis Outbreak Declared At Princeton University

A meningitis outbreak has been declared at Princeton University in New Jersey after a seventh student sought treatment for the illness. According to The Star-Ledger, a university spokesman stated Sunday evening that the seventh case of meningitis has been diagnosed at the school.

Spokesman Martin Mbugua told reporters that "the student developed symptoms of acute illness yesterday and went to the university's McCosh Health Center. From there, he was taken to a local hospital early this morning."

According to CBS News, the state of New Jersey requires all students living on campus to get a meningitis vaccine, but it does not protect against the B strain of the infection, All six of the earlier cases had been diagnosed with serogroup type B. The university is currently awaiting test results to determine the type of meningitis contracted by the seventh student and a report is expected later in the week.

The New Jersey Department Of Health made the following announcement concerning the outbreak:

"Given that we have six individuals diagnosed with Neisseria meningitidis serogroup (type) B in a short period of time, in an abundance of caution, we are considering this an outbreak. The seventh case remains under investigation and laboratory data are pending. We hope that by considering this an outbreak, we will increase awareness and prompt early case recognition among members of the Princeton community and healthcare providers."
As reported by CBS News, the type B bacteria is spread through respiratory and throat secretions by kissing, coughing or prolonged contact. There is a risk of infection for other people living in the same dorm room or household as someone who has been exposed to the bacteria.

The report said, "if contracted (Neisseria meningitides bacteria) a person may develop meningitis, a severe swelling of the tissue that lines the brain and spinal cord, also known as the meninges. Symptoms include a sudden fever, headache and stiff neck, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, increased light sensitivity and confusion."

The report referenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying that the infection can spread to the bloodstream, damaging blood vessels and causing bleeding into the skin and organs. Death can occur in as little as a few hours without treatment. Other cases can result in permanent disabilities from amputations and skin grafts.

The university is encouraging students to pay extra attention to personal hygiene practices in order to prevent the further spread of meningitis. Safe practices include always coughing into a sleeve or tissue, washing hands frequently and using a hand sanitizer when washing isn't possible. It is also important to remember not to share drinks and eating utensils.

[Image via Shutterstock/PavelSvoboda]