Re: Case of Meningitis Diagnosed; Vaccinations to Begin

February 6, 2001

Troy, N.Y. — Meningococcal meningitis has been diagnosed affecting a single student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The student, a sophomore, is hospitalized in good condition and is recovering.

Meningococcal meningitis — an inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord — and its accompanying bloodstream infections are rare but potentially dangerous. The risk for contracting this disease is low.

In response to the diagnosis, the Institute is providing free immunizations for all students, faculty, and staff at a variety of campus locations, beginning today. Vaccinations will be given at the Rensselaer Union 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today and Wednesday, Feb. 7, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Responding to the diagnosis of this case, the Rensselaer Student Health Center immediately notified 142 persons who are believed to have been in recent contact with the affected student. These people were immediately treated with Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic drug that reduces the risk of contracting or transmitting meningitis. These persons will also be offered vaccination as part of the mass immunization.

Rensselaer offered routine vaccination for meningococcal meningitis in 1999 and 2000. Approximately 1,900 students were vaccinated as a result of this immunization campaign.

The Rensselaer County Department of Health and the New York State Health Department are assisting with the response to the diagnosis.

The vaccine being offered is Menomune - A/C/Y/W-135 Meningococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine, Groups A, C, Y and W-135 Combined. Menomune has a proven safety record. As with any vaccine, vaccination may not protect all susceptible individuals.

Immunization should be deferred during the course of any acute illness. Pregnant women should not be immunized since effects of the vaccine on the fetus are unknown. Vaccination is not advised in individuals known to be sensitive to thimerosal or any other components of the vaccine.

Adverse reactions to the meningococcal vaccine are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of localized redness and pain at the injection site lasting 1 to 2 days.

Some common early symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a physician immediately.

Anyone who has had close, intimate contact with a person diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis should see a physician immediately for antibiotic preventative treatment.

Contact: Theresa Bourgeois
Phone: (518) 276-2840

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