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Message from Dr. Karen Nardella
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
As Syracuse University’s medical director, ensuring my colleagues and I do everything we can to contribute to a safe and healthy living, learning and working environment is critically important.
That is why I am reaching out to you today: To inform you that we learned that one of our students was recently diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. The student has since left campus and is currently being treated at a hospital near the student’s hometown.
Immediately upon learning this news, the University activated its response protocol. This includes notifying students who live with the student or may have come into contact with the student, and administering antibiotics to students who have had close contact with the ill student as per public health protocols. Students who have had prolonged contact with the ill student are deemed to be at the greatest risk. If you have not been contacted by Health Services, you are not at increased risk from this case and you do not need antibiotics (technically known as prophylaxis).
Since learning of this diagnosis, we have been in close communication with our partners at the Onondaga County Health Department and the New York State Department of Health. We will be working closely with these partners to educate our campus community about the situation. To that end, we are sharing with you some basic information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To learn more about what you can do to prevent, detect and treat meningitis, please visit health.syr.edu. Anyone with additional questions or concerns should contact Health Services at 315.443.9005.
What is meningitis?
According to the CDC, meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling.
How does meningitis spread?
It’s important to note meningitis does not spread as easily as the common cold or flu. People do not become infected with meningitis through casual contact or by breathing air where someone with the infection has been.
The bacterium that causes meningitis is spread to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or prolonged contact to spread the bacterium. According to the CDC, most carriers of the bacteria never become sick.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
The most common symptoms of meningitis include sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting and confusion.
How long does it take to show signs of meningitis after being exposed?
This can range from three to seven days after exposure.
Is meningitis serious? How do you treat it?
Antibiotics are typically administered to treat meningitis. Most people recover from meningitis within seven to 10 days. However, if left untreated, serious complications—including permanent disabilities and in rare cases death—can occur.
We will continue to provide updates to the University community as we learn new information.
Karen Nardella, M.D.
Medical Director, Syracuse University Health Services