The Northeastern University and St. John’s prep communities are mourning the loss of 18-year-old Northeastern freshman and Wakefield resident, Ryan Shaw, who died Sunday after a short battle with meningitis.

shawShaw studied Finance at Northeastern and was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

On Tuesday, the St. John’s Prep community held a prayer service in support of Ryan’s family.

It is not specified as to the causative agent of the meningitis. What is meningitis, how do you get infected and how can you prevent it?

Ed Hardiman, the headmaster from St. John’s Prep said Shaw’s organs were donated to help eight other people. The Department of Public Health is monitoring the situation with Northeastern but said there are no other known meningitis cases.

Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. While most people with meningitis recover, permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities can result from the infection.

There are several types of bacteria that can cause meningitis. In the United States, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis (caused by S. pneumoniae, group B Streptococcus, N. meningitidis, H. influenzae, and L. monocytogenes), including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003–2007.