3rd Penn student hospitalized with meningitis

February 13, 2009 4:41:44 PM PST
Another Penn student has been hospitalized with a confirmed case of meningitis. This comes after two University of Pennsylvania students were hospitalized earlier in the week, and more than 100 others have been given antibiotics as a precaution.University spokesman Ron Ozio said Friday that as a precaution, Penn is canceling all gatherings where significant interaction with food, drink, or intimate contact is likely. Sporting events and the performing arts are not affected.

Ozio says the three students had contact through "the Greek system," meaning fraternities and sororities. He says anyone attended fraternity or sorority events since Feb. 2, or had close, prolonged contact with somone who did, should go to a special clinic. It is to be held Saturday at the university's Student Health Service.

Penn has released this statement:

As a precaution, and to ensure that all students needing to receive preventative treatment have received it, the University has decided to cancel, through this weekend, and perhaps further as circumstances indicate, all official University and student-sponsored parties. This includes, specifically, all parties, on- or off-campus, sponsored by student groups, all Greek-related parties, all College Housing and housing-affiliated parties, or any other gatherings where significant interaction with food, drink, or intimate contact is likely. Athletic and performing arts events will be held as scheduled.

As we have learned the three hospitalized students had common interaction through the Greek system, we have set up a special clinic for tomorrow, Saturday, February 14, at Student Health Service, 3535 Market Street, beginning at 9am. Those who have attended fraternity or sorority events since February 2, or had close, prolonged contact with anyone who attended any Greek-related events since February 2, should visit the clinic for evaluation and possible preventative treatment.

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

Thus far, University and public health officials have provided preventative treatment to more than 100 students and continue active outreach to those believed potentially to have had close, prolonged contact with the hospitalized students.

Bacterial meningitis is a potentially fatal infection of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, sensitivity to bright light, stiff neck and nausea.

Officials at the Ivy League school in Philadelphia e-mailed a university-wide notification about the cases on Thursday.

State law requires undergraduate students living on campus to be vaccinated against meningitis before arriving at school, unless they sign a waiver informing them of the infection's risks.

Wiener would not disclose whether the infected students had been vaccinated, but she said nearly all undergraduates have complied with the requirement.

Meningitis can be spread through kissing, sharing utensils and other close contact. The university has contacted all individuals who may have been in close contact with the two infected students since Feb. 2 in order to give them antibotics, she said.

Penn sophomore Anne Ryan died of meningitis in September 2007. Her family has sued the university-affiliated hospital where she was treated.

LINKS: Frequently Asked Questions about Meningitis

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