Officials with the University of Colorado-Boulder have reported a 19-year-old male student from CU Boulder has been diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. The student is in fair condition at Boulder Community Hospital.

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

Boulder County Public Health officials are investigating this case. Officials are reaching out to those who have been in close contact with the patient.

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that causes infection of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Most people recover from meningitis, however, serious complications, including death, can occur in as little as a few hours if left untreated. It is treated with antibiotics.

Some of the most common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include fever, severe headache or stiff neck, extreme fatigue, light sensitivity and/or confusion.

Meningococcal disease may be spread to others; however, this is uncommon. Those CU community members who have had close contact with this student are being contacted by Boulder County Public Health. The risk to other people is minimal and is confined to those who have had close contact with the person.

Close contact includes any direct salival contact including: sharing e-cigarettes (e.g. JUULs) or other smoking devices, kissing, sharing drinks, glasses or eating utensils and being exposed to secretions from the nose or throat of the infected person.

A person may be infected for one to 10 days, and most commonly three to four days, before showing any symptoms.

Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against this severe disease. Anyone who has never been vaccinated for meningococcal meningitis or has not been vaccinated in the past five years, should consider getting the vaccination.Those at greatest risk are students living in residence halls, so these individuals should consider vaccination from their primary health care provider. However, if you have been determined to be a close contact of a person with meningococcal disease, you still need to get medications even if you have been adequately vaccinated.

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