Yale looks to contain possible bacterial meningitis

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NEW HAVEN-- Yale University and public health officials are working to identify anyone who had contact with an undergraduate student hospitalized with "probable bacterial meningitis".

A special clinic opened at the Yale  Health Saturday allowing health officials to give preventative medicine to anyone who may have been in contact with the student who is being treated  at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

"The idea that it was here is a bit nerve-racking," said Yale Junior Olivia Grinker.

Grinker, a Calhoun College resident says she was informed the student with meningitis is a female in her junior year living in the same residential hall, made up of 400 students.

"Some of my friends make fun of me, and are saying we have to get away from me because I'm in the dorm, but I don't even know who this person is," Grinker said.

According to the Yale Daily News, the condition of the student is "improving."  The newspaper previously reported the student has been contagious since Jan. 26 and was brought to the hospital by her suitemates after being sick for some time.

"If it's caught sooner the prognosis much better and the mortality rate and morbidity rate has gone down quite a bit," said Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief of Infectious Disease at St. Francis Hospital.

A University of Hartford student died from bacterial meningitis this spring, but doctors say it's rare and contracting meningitis is also uncommon.

Yale University requires all students have to be immunized for meningitis.

"This is a vaccine preventable disease, just like were seeing with the outbreaks in measles where there is a largely unvaccinated measles population in those who are contrasting measles," said Dr. Wu.

All strains of bacterial meningitis are now covered by vaccines.

A recently approved vaccination covers the strain that caused the outbreak at Princeton University in 2013, linked to the death of a college student in Philadelphia.

"I think there was a little déjà vu to the whole Princeton incident," said Yale Sophomore Karina Kovalcik.

The clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on  Sunday. In addition, the Acute Care department is also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to attend to patients and, when necessary, dispense medication.  A hotline: 866-924-9253 is staffed with medical professionals who can answer your questions.

Yale officials are communicating several guidelines to help prevent the spread of meningococcal disease:
• Remember to cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve.
• Don’t share anything that comes in contact with the mouth, such as water bottles, mouth guards or face masks, towels, drinking glasses or eating utensils, cosmetics, toothbrushes, smoking materials, writing implements, or food or drink from a common source such as a punch bowl.
• And the most effective prevention is diligent hand washing! Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Also remember that meningococcal bacteria cannot be spread by shaking hands; breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been; touching doorknobs, clothing or sports equipment; or food.