Penn State’s University Health Services (UHS) announced Monday that local health officials confirmed a single case of meningococcal meningitis at University Park.

The patient, a Penn State student, has been treated for the infection and is currently recovering at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

UHS is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to monitor the case. Close contacts of the student, who resides on campus, have been notified and provided with the appropriate antibiotic prophylaxis.

Meningococcal meningitis is a form of bacterial meningitis that is treated with antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. It is spread by close contact with an infected individual. Most people recover from meningitis, however, serious complications, including death, can occur in as little as a few hours if left untreated.

Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström
Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis may be severe and include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and confusion or altered mental status.

Symptoms most commonly appear three to seven days after exposure but may present anywhere from two to 10 days after exposure. Symptoms may progress very rapidly.

Bacterial meningitis is spread through close contact with an infected individual, including kissing, sharing food and beverage, or breathing in bacteria spread by sneezing or coughing. College students are especially at risk due to close living environments.

Bacterial meningitis is confirmed through laboratory tests that analyze blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid. It is treated by targeted antibiotics; the sooner antibiotic treatment is initiated the better.

The most effective prevention against bacterial meningitis is vaccination.