and local public health officials were notified Thursday that an undergraduate student living on the South 40 has contracted meningococcal disease, which is considered contagious to those who had close contact with her.
The student's freshman floor and other members of the campus community who may have been in close contact with her in the last 10 days are being notified and offered preventive medical treatment at the University's Habif Health and Wellness Center.
Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions, such as through kissing, sneezing and coughing on someone, or sharing food or drink. Students who had casual contact with the female student, such as attending class, are not at risk.
Meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It will often have other symptoms, including:
- Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Altered mental status (confusion)
The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure. Unless a student has been in close physical contact with the patient, the likelihood of infection is extremely small.
A spokesman for the St. Louis County Health Department told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the department was aware of the situation.
"We're investigating a single case and working with Washington University student health," John Shelton said. "We're waiting for lab results which can take up to 24 hours."
Washington University's Student Life reports that students were alerted via email and Twitter on Thursday.
For more information about meningococcal meningitis, go to http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html