Meningitis Suspected In Teen WVU Student's death
Antibiotics Given On Morgantown Campus
POSTED: 8:33 pm EST March 3, 2009
UPDATED: 6:23 pm EST March 4, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A 19-year-old West Virginia University student suspected of having bacterial meningitis has died, and 40 others are being given antibiotics as a precaution, the university said Wednesday.
Tests confirming the diagnosis are still pending after the death of Chelsea Kanatus Monday night at Ruby Memorial Hospital.
Friends have already built a Facebook.com memorial page for Kanatus, of Stephens City, Va.
"She was being treated for the presumed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis," said Dr. Jan Palmer, WVU's director of student health.
Incoming WVU freshmen are required to be vaccinated against meningitis.
"I'm pretty sure I got vaccinated for that before I came to college," WVU student Kasey Fisher said.
Palmer acknowledged that the student who died had gotten the necessary shot.
"The vaccine prevents between 70 and 80 percent of bacterial meningitis," Palmer said. "There are some strains that are not controlled by the vaccine."
Unlike the vaccine, the antibiotic covers every strain, Palmer said.
"The treatment is a single dose of antibiotic," Palmer said. "It's been found to be very effective in profilaxing people who might have been exposed."
Bacterial meningitis, also called spinal meningitis, is an infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and brain. The bacteria that cause it can be spread by human saliva or mucous, so exposure can occur through intimate contact such as kissing or casual contact such as sharing a drinking glass.
If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage and even death. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck. More severe symptoms include confusion and seizures.
Appropriate antibiotic treatment typically reduces the risk of death to below 15 percent, according to the Centers for disease Control and Prevention. Viral meningitis, which caused by a virus rather than bacteria, is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment, the CDC says.