Smith College student hospitalized with bacterial meningitis

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Published: 2/26/2018 1:09:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A Smith College student was hospitalized over the weekend after being diagnosed with a bacterial meningitis infection, according to the college.

The student, whose identity has not been released, lives off campus and was diagnosed Sunday, according to the school. The student is “receiving appropriate care,” the college said.

“The college is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to notify any individuals who were in close contact with the student,” the college said in a statement. “At this time, officials have not determined whether this case is related to the 2017 meningitis outbreak at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.”

The college will send out more information to the student population by email and add it to the school’s Schacht Center for Health and Wellness website as soon as it is available. Expected updates include information on potential vaccination clinics once the DPH has identified the specific strain of meningitis, according to the college.

Last fall, two students at UMass contracted meningitis B. State and university officials deemed the two cases of meningococcal disease on campus an outbreak and recommended approximately 20,000 undergraduate students receive vaccinations. More than 7,000 students received a meningitis B vaccine, including about 5,500 students at one of the university’s four large-scale vaccination clinics.

Students entering college already are required to be vaccinated against the meningitis A, C, W and Y serotypes. Serotype B is not covered by that vaccine. Two shots will be required for the vaccine Bexsero, spaced one month apart, to build up an immunity to serotype B.

Following the outbreak at UMass, Smith College did offer students an opportunity to get the meningitis B vaccine at the Schacht Center. College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel said approximately 200 students participated in the vaccinations.

Meningitis is not easily contagious like the common cold or the flu and is spread through close or intimate contact through infected saliva.

Amherst College sent out a notice Monday afternoon notifying its students about meningitis diagnosis and encouraging students to get the meningitis B vaccine.

“At this time there are no known cases at Amherst College and investigations to date have not found that this Smith College student had any close contact with any Amherst College students,” the college wrote.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.
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