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Department of Health Confirms Case of Meningococcal Meningitis at Providence College

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, the Rhode Island Department of Health received a report of a confirmed case of meningococcal meningitis in a vaccinated Providence College student. The student has been admitted to a Boston-area hospital and is improving.

Providence College Health Services, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Health, has identified the close contacts of the student and has provided them preventive antibiotics. The Rhode Island Department of Health is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Health to identify the Boston-area contacts of the student to ensure that preventive antibiotics are administered.

"Meningitis does not spread through the air or through casual exposure, so the risk of contracting this disease is low for Providence College students and staff," said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "Still, meningitis is a dangerous disease. The Department of Health takes even a single case seriously and works hard to prevent any spread."

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial infection is spread through direct secretions from the nose or mouth through activities such as kissing, sharing food, drinks, water bottles, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or cigarettes. Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important.

Vaccination is the best protection against meningococcal disease. The vaccine protects against all strains except serogroup B. All 11-12 years olds should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine. For adolescents who receive the first dose at age 13 through 15 years, a one-time booster dose should be administered, preferably at age 16 through 18 years. Adolescents who receive their first dose of meningococcal vaccine at or after age 16 years do not need a booster dose.

The meningococcal vaccines that are available can prevent four types of meningococcal disease, including two of the three types that are most common in the United States. Approximately 92 percent of Rhode Islanders from 13 to 17 years of age have received at least one dose of meningococcal vaccine.

People who are immunized do not need to take any additional action. People who are not immunized should contact their doctors.

People at increased risk for meningitis are: • College freshmen living in dormitories. • Laboratory personnel who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria. • U.S. military recruits. • Anyone traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where meningococcal disease is common. • Anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed. • Anyone who has persistent complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder). • People who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.

Providence College students are directed to call the Providence College Health Center at 401-865-2423 with any questions.

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