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Health / Safety

Update on meningococcal illnesses

October 20, 2010

Any time Colorado State University receives notice of a public health concern, our primary focus is on protecting the health and safety of our students and broader campus community, cooperating with health officials, and containing the spread of the problem.

Update 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21

General information sessions for students and employees about campus meningococcal illnesses will be held at both noon and 1:10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22 in the Lory Student Center Theatre.

Update 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 21

Yesterday, we were notified of the tragic death of a CSU student, Christina Adame, a young woman of promise who was well-loved by many in our community and whose loss is deeply felt across our campus. We were originally alerted by community health officials that it was suspected that Christina had died of bacterial meningitis.

Meningococcal sepsis - bacteria infects blood rather than brain

The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment reported late Wednesday, Oct. 20, that Christina died of meningococcal disease early Wednesday morning at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. While earlier reports from Larimer County health officials indicated suspected meningococcal meningitis, which, in medical terms is swelling of the brain and spinal cord, the Larimer County Health Department is now indicating she may have died of meningococcal sepsis, which is caused by the same meningococcal bacteria but infects the blood rather than the brain.

A second student, Zachary Ratzlaff, remains in the hospital with what health officials suspect might also be a form of meningococcal disease. We are pleased that he appears to be improving and at this time does not appear to have a life-threatening illness.

Cannot be spread through casual contact

While there has been some disagreement among health officials in the media, Colorado State University remains committed to its primary goal: protecting the health and welfare of our campus community. These diseases are not airborne and cannot be spread through casual contact—only through saliva—so we do not believe there is a significant risk to the campus community in general at this time. Still, it is important for all of us to be aware of the symptoms and risks of meningococcal disease and to contact a physician immediately with concerns about possible infection. If you or your friends have the symptoms of meningitis, prompt treatment is critical… you can’t go to bed hoping to sleep it off or drive home to your family doctor. Seek treatment right away.

For that reason, we are encouraging any students or employees who think they may have been exposed to either of these students within the last week to contact health professionals to determine if preventative antibiotic treatments are appropriate. Contact with saliva may occur through:

  • sharing drinks or food and drinking containers
  • sharing eating utensils or food
  • kissing
  • being directly hit by spray from a cough or sneeze

Resources

Students who are concerned that they were exposed to the saliva of either student are encouraged to visit the CSU Health Network at the Hartshorn Building or call them for more information at 970-491-2147. Employees should consult with their personal physician. Anyone who is ill with meningococcal disease symptoms should consider visiting their physician -- students can access the CSU Health Network -- or go to the emergency room.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • neck stiffness
  • discomfort when looking into bright lights
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • aching or sore muscles
  • difficulty walking
  • general malaise
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • collapse
  • rash of red-purple pinprick spots or larger bruises
  • painful or swollen joints
  • moaning and unintelligible speech

For more information about meningococcal disease, visit larimer.org/health/meningoccal_faq.pdf. More information about CSU’s health services for students, including meningococcal vaccines and the university’s original communications to campus regarding the illnesses of these students, is available at www.safety.colostate.edu.


Wednesday, Oct. 20

One death, one in ICU

One Colorado State University student has died of suspected bacterial meningitis and a second student is ill with what officials believe also may be meningitis. The Larimer County Department of Health is currently testing for information about the strains of meningitis, but at this time that information is not available. CSU officials and health department officials are working as quickly as possible to identify individuals who may have been exposed.

Both of the students became ill yesterday. Christina Adame, who lived off campus, passed away at 2 a.m. today after being hospitalized at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19. A second student, who lives in the C-wing of Corbett Hall, remains in ICU at Poudre Valley Hospital. Health officials suspect Adame had bacterial meningitis. Health officials also report that both students had received vaccination for meningitis.
 
At this time, CSU and Larimer County Department of Health do not know if there is a connection between the two students. CSU is working to make contact with individuals who may have been exposed through friendships and living and working arrangements with these two individuals and getting them prophylactic treatment of an antibiotic. In addition, although meningitis survives for only a short amount of time outside of the body and is ONLY spread through saliva, precautionary measures such as extra cleaning are being taken in living and working areas for both students.

Spread through direct contact with saliva

Meningitis is spread through direct contact with saliva. It is not spread through casual contact or through the air. People who are considered at risk of exposure are those who share:

  • a household
  • drinking containers
  • eating utensils
  • sleeping areas
  • food
  • cigarettes or pipes, including hookahs
  • water bottles,
  • a child care center with someone who is exposed,
  • or have kissed someone who has become ill.

Investigating people who may have been exposed

The deceased student also worked at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and officials are investigating for people who may have been exposed. Veterinary Teaching Hospital clients and pets are NOT considered to be at risk.

Symptoms

College-aged individuals are at particular risk of contracting meningitis. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • neck stiffness
  • discomfort when looking into bright lights
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • aching or sore muscles
  • difficulty walking
  • general malaise
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • collapse
  • rash of red-purple pinprick spots or larger bruises
  • painful or swollen joints
  • moaning
  • unintelligible speech

Contacts if you believe you have been exposed

If students believe they may have been exposed, they should call CSU Health Network at (970) 491-2147 or visit the Hartshorn Building. If students believe they have symptoms, they should go to Hartshorn during business hours or to the emergency room.

Employees or members of the public who are concerned that they may have been exposed should call the Larimer County Health Department. Anyone who has been exposed can receive preventative treatment and if they have not been vaccinated, can consider getting vaccinated.

More information about meningitis and the university’s response is available at www.safety.colostate.edu or larimer.org/health/meningoccal_faq.pdf.


Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
E-mail: DellRae.Moellenberg@colostate.edu