Smith College student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Smith College student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis

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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

A student at Smith College has been hospitalized after contracting bacterial meningitis. 

This comes just months after a Meningitis B outbreak at nearby UMass Amherst.

Officials at Smith College alerted students and parents following the diagnosis through email on Sunday and the state's Department of Public Health is looking to identify those who may have come in close contact with the student. 

We learned late Monday afternoon that the Smith College student who contracted bacterial meningitis did not attend any classes at UMass Amherst through the Five College consortium program, which is important because of the two cases of Meningitis B at UMass last fall. 

At this time, health officials at Smith College are recommending students to consider getting the Meningitis B vaccine despite not knowing what strain of the bacterial infection they are dealing with at this time. 

Smith College's physician is warning students and parents after a female student who lives off-campus at Smith College was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. 

"At present, it's unknown what type it is." said Dr. Leslie Jaffe.

As of Monday, it is unclear what strain of meningitis the student contracted and that while the school is working with the state's Department of Public Health, the timeline for when they might know is unclear. 

However, this information is key to seeing if this case is connected to two cases at UMass Amherst last fall.

"It's not known if it's linked.  The other reason for knowing would be what the best vaccination would be for prevention," Jaffe added.

There are five strains of meningitis - four are covered by a vaccine required for all high school students attending college in the Bay State. 

The fifth strain, Meningitis B, is covered by a vaccine created in 2014.

Following the two cases at UMass Amherst, 200 Smith College students received the Meningitis B vaccine at two clinics hosted by the school. 

Common symptoms of the infection include:

  • high fever
  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • sleepiness or trouble waking up
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lack of appetite

Health officials said that meningitis spreads through saliva and students should avoid sharing drinks, makeup, or smoking materials and to be sure to cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands regularly. 

Jaffe told Western Mass News that any students who haven't gotten the first vaccine or the Meningitis B shot should do so.

"We have both vaccines on-hand and are making them available to students," Jaffe said.

Jaffe said that they are exploring the idea of another clinic for the Meningitis B shot.  Until then, students can receive either vaccine at the health center and you don't need an appointment. 

Any student with health concerns are urged to contact the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness 24 hours a day at (413) 585-2800.  

Those students with questions on their vaccination schedule are urged to contact the health center during regular hours, which are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Western Mass News will continue to follow this story and will have more information as it becomes available.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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