UMFK officials confirm bacterial meningitis case

Posted Feb. 20, 2009, at 7:51 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Officials at the University of Maine at Fort Kent have confirmed that they reported a case of bacterial meningitis to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

While not divulging the student’s name, campus officials did say the off-campus resident is from the Fort Kent area.

“There was one case of a student testing positive for bacterial meningitis,” Terence Kelly, UMFK director of university relations, said Friday morning. “The student’s parent called to alert us and we reported it to the Maine CDC.”

Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and in the fluid that surrounds the brain.

The disease is spread by direct close contact with discharges from the nose or throat of an infected individual and is treatable with antibiotics.

Students at UMFK are required to receive immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria before being admitted. While not required, bacterial meningitis immunization is highly recommended, Kelly said.

It was not known whether the infected student had had the immunization.

“The student in question is under a doctor’s care,” Kelly said. “We expect he will be out of school for a couple of weeks.”

All students who were in close contact with the infected student have been screened for the disease, Kelly said, and all tested negative.

“The CDC contacted me to let me know the procedures to follow if there had been an outbreak,” said Scott Voisine, director of student affairs. “They were very helpful.”

Dr. Dora Mills, Maine public health director, on Friday would not confirm a specific case at UMFK, but did say she had a report of one case of the Neisseria meningococcal form of bacterial meningitis in Aroostook County.

The student and anyone who came in close contact with him were treated with antibiotics, Mills said.

“This can be very serious,” Mills said of the disease. “If not caught early, it is almost 100 percent fatal, [but] in this case I understand the individual in question is responding well and recovering.”

Mills pointed out this particular strain is quite rare with less than half a dozen cases seen in the state annually.

Because the meningitis was caught in its early stages and the student began receiving treatment, Kelly and Voisine are confident it is an isolated incident on the campus.

“The student was with some friends on a car trip recently,” Voisine said. “All of the people in that car tested negative [and] we were told it would be highly unusual at this point if there was another case.”

Voisine emphasized the bacteria are spread by close contact and not by casual contact or by simply breathing air where a person with meningitis has been.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion and sleepiness.

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