Student At Smith College Diagnosed With Meningitis

Feb 27, 2018

Smith College says a student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis over the weekend is receiving appropriate care at a local hospital.

College physician Leslie Jaffe said the school was notified Sunday that the student, who lived off-campus, had been treated at an emergency room.

Jaffe said officials have been able to identify those who came into close contact with the student. The school has recommended those individuals receive a preventive antibiotic.

Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but is contagious by very close, intimate contact: the actual passing of saliva,” Jaffe said. “So simply being in proximity with someone is not a risk factor.”

The college says students should “avoid sharing drinks, water bottles, makeup, lip balm or smoking materials,” similar to steps they’d take to prevent the spread of the common cold or flu.

Jaffe said it’s not yet clear if the latest case is connected to the meningitis outbreak at UMass Amherst last fall. He said the Department of Public Health is working on identifying the meningitis strain.

College students are considered the primary risk group for bacterial meningitis, Jaffe said.

“Most students today have received the initial meningitis vaccine, which covers four strains,” he said. “Since 2014, there’s been a second type of vaccine that covers a fifth strain, type B, and type B is the one that’s associated with UMass. At Smith, we have both vaccines.”

Jaffe said the college is encouraging students to get both vaccines if they haven’t already.

Heather Brandon contributed to this report.