| On March 4, Tom Cornish ’05 was transported to a local hospital with symptoms consistent with meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tom was infected with strain B of Neisseria meningitidis, a strain not protected against by any existing vaccine, though one is in development.
Based on this information, Tom had meningococcal meningitis, which is a type of bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. Tom’s condition has improved significantly since being admitted to the hospital and he is making steady progress toward recovery.
Wesleyan’s Office of Health Education has compiled a page with information about this disease:
There are different strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Tom was infected with a strain not protected against by the vaccine mandated for Wesleyan undergraduates. The bacteria can be spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (such as through coughing or kissing). Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as agents that cause the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. A vaccine for strain B Neisseria meningitidis is in development.
Persons in the same household or who have had direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions would be considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. Even though the risk of getting meningococcal disease is generally very low; as a precaution, close contacts are often advised to take an antibiotic, usually rifampin or ciprofloxacin. Even when that step is deemed necessary, it does not imply an increase in risk for the broader community.
The University Health Center has contacted and provided or arranged treatment for those identified as having close contact with Tom. Medical staff maintained a telephone hotline around the clock to answer questions from members of the community and to direct them to further medical consultation or treatment, as appropriate.