Meningitis Suspected in West Virginia Student's Death

After a 19-year-old's death Monday, 30 other students are treated with antibiotics.

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West Virginia University health services have treated more than 30 students with antibiotics after a 19-year-old student died Monday night from what officials believe was bacterial meningitis, the Athenaeum and WVPB report.

The health director at WVU says he believes officials have found everyone who could have been exposed to the infection. "We talked to people who have had significant exposure—friends, boyfriend, roommates, family," Jan Palmer said. "The people we're treating might have shared drinking glasses, kissing, saliva sharing of any kind."

The student who died lived off campus and reportedly had been vaccinated for meningitis, but the vaccine protects people from only about 80 percent of the types of bacterial meningitis that occur in the college-age group.

The infection is more prevalent in communal living situations, such as dorms and prisons, but is generally rare in the United States. From the American College Health Association:

It strikes 1,400 to 3,000 Americans each year and is responsible for approximately 150 to 300 deaths.

Adolescents and young adults account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of meningitis in the United States. In addition, approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result.

Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, sore throat, and vomiting. In the more severe case of bacterial meningitis, infection can cause seizures, brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and death.