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Student with meningitis improving in Pa. hospital

November 23, 1998|By DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - The condition of a Shippensburg University student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis has been upgraded and others at the university have been given preventive antibiotics, according to a spokesman.

"He's in serious condition, which is really an upgrade of his previous condition, which was critical," university spokesman Pete Gigliotti said Sunday. The student was taken to Chambersburg Hospital Friday morning, he said.

Gigliotti said the unnamed 20-year-old man's roommate and 21 other people who may have come in close contact with him have been given preventive antibiotics. That included students, as well as campus employees who responded to his dormitory room when the illness was first discovered.

Gigliotti said the Etter Health Center on campus had received about 75 calls through Sunday from people concerned they might have been exposed. The preventive treatment involves taking just one pill, he said.

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Early symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include fever, severe headaches, mental lethargy and a stiff neck. Gigliotti said none of those who have called or been given antibiotics have exhibited symptoms serious enough to warrant a spinal tap, the only way to determine if someone has the disease.

The symptoms are similar to many less serious illnesses, Gigliotti noted. He said the disease, the most serious form of meningitis, can only be contracted by close contact.

"When we say close contact, we mean that literally," Gigliotti said. That includes being sneezed on, sharing a drinking glass or utensils, or sexual contact, he said. Being in the same room or hallway should pose no threat, he said.

While up to 10 percent of people carry the bacteria, Gigliotti said the illness usually manifests itself when a person's immune system is weakened by poor nutrition, lack of sleep, stress, or other factors.

Any university students or employees experiencing the symptoms can call the Etter Health Center at 717-532-1458, or toll-free at 1-888-200-1220 for information, or they can contact their personal physician.

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