Meningococcalwhat?

Here is an “e-lert” I have been sent, modified in light of my own notions of privacy:

A Vanderbilt undergraduate is being treated for meningococcal bacterial meningitis today after being brought to the Vanderbilt emergency room overnight. S/he is in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit.

Firstname Lastname, an Arts and Science first-year student and resident of Propernoun Hall on the Commons, was admitted to the hospital around midnight Monday, after s/he experienced a severe headache, rash and high fever.  Firstname Lastname is a member of the Shoulda Eta Whata fraternisorority.

Meningococcal bacterial meningitis is a relatively rare but life-threatening infection that is spread by close contact with an infected person.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines “contact” as intimate contact (such as kissing), or prolonged, close face-to-face contact, as in the case of a roommate or teammate.  “Casual” contacts in the classroom setting or as a spectator at an athletic event would not be considered high risk contacts.

The risk of infection in contacts can be greatly reduced by taking one tablet of the antibiotic Cipro. There are alternatives for those contacts who are allergic to Cipro.  Any students who might have come in close contact with Firstname Lastname in the last week are urged to come to the Student Health Center to obtain preventive medication FREE OF CHARGE. However, students who have had any contact with Firstname Lastname, and are concerned, are welcome to come to Student Health for preventive treatment.

Faculty or staff who might have been exposed should go to Occupational Health Services for free preventive care.

Can you hear those wheels screech?  There’s more to the email, but this is my interest: Will the faculty or staff who have been kissing Firstname Lastname please report to the Health Center?  Jesus.

Also: yuck.  I seriously don’t want this meningococcal thing.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Meningococcalwhat?

  1. It seems weird that the only specific example provided in the alert would be kissing. You would think, from a public health perspective, adding other types of contact would be important to minimizing risk because no faculty/staff will want to get be treated because (as you point out) it is going to be assumed that they were kissing this student. In fact faculty might have close contact if they had office hours with this person and were helping them work out a problem on a problem set.

    What a bizarre e-mail to receive.

  2. Jenn Lena

    I agree, Mike–It seems to me like an exceedingly bad “health alert” from a public health perspective. This is especially embarrassing to those who (over)identify with the university, since we have a medical school, a world class Children’s Hospital, and a large and growing number of majors in our Medicine, Health and Society program. Perhaps one of our new RWJ scholars will take this on…

    Anyway, I’m totally grossed out by the students today. Those walking petri dishes.

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