Confirmed Case of Meningococcemia at Appalachian State University

Appalachian State and AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department) has announced a confirmed case of meningococcemia.

According to a statement released on Saturday night:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We have learned of one confirmed case of meningococcemia in an Appalachian State University student who lives off campus, and we want to share information about this situation with you. We are providing this information in the interest of maintaining open communication about the potential of exposure to this case.

An Appalachian State University student has been diagnosed with “meningococcemia,” which is a bloodstream infection caused by a bacteria that can also cause meningitis.

It is important to note:

  • The individual diagnosed with the disease does not have meningitis
  • The person is being treated, and
  • Actions are in effect to minimize contact with this person.

Close contacts of someone with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to help prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis).

At this time all known close contacts who require prophylaxis have been treated or are in process of receiving treatment. Additionally, a special notification has been sent to those who we have identified as having possible risk of exposure, and they have been provided with information about prophylaxis options. This does not mean that the contacts have the disease; it is to prevent it. People who are not a close contact of a patient with meningococcal disease do not need prophylaxis.

In order to assist in continuing to identify anyone who may have come in contact with the infected person, the North Carolina Division of Public Health is asking anyone who visited three local establishments on the following dates and times and shared eating utensils, food, drink, or kissed someone you don’t usually have contact with to contact AppHealthCare’s on call nurse at 828-264-4995 extension 8 for prophylactic treatment.

The dates, times and locations are:

  • Boone Saloon on Aug. 22 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.
  • The Local on Aug. 23 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.
  • Café Portafino on Aug. 25 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.

Please find more information about meningococcemia on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and below.

Signs and Symptoms

You should seek medical attention immediately at the Emergency Room if you develop symptoms of meningococcal disease. Symptoms of meningococcal disease can first appear as a flu-like illness and rapidly worsen. The two most common types of meningococcal infections are meningitis and septicemia. Both of these types of infections are very serious and can be deadly in a matter of hours.

Doctors call meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis meningococcal meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the bacteria infect the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord and cause swelling.

The most common symptoms include: fever, headache and stiff neck. There are often additional symptoms, which include: nausea, vomiting, photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light), and altered mental status (confusion)

Prevention

Keeping up-to-date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. It is required for all students unless the student has claimed an exemption such as religious beliefs. If you are a student who has claimed an exemption who would now like to receive the immunization, you may request it from Student Health Services or the AppHealthCare office located at 126 Poplar Grove Connector in Boone. Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick, also helps.

Vaccination

Vaccines help protect against all three serogroups (B, C, and Y) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria commonly seen in the United States. Like with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means there is still a chance you can develop meningococcal disease after vaccination. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal disease since early recognition and quick medical attention are extremely important.

Although rare, people can get meningococcal disease more than once. A previous infection will not offer lifelong protection from future infections. Therefore, CDC recommends meningococcal vaccines for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, children and adults should also get meningococcal vaccines.

Antibiotics (prophylaxis)

Close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. This is known as prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis). Examples of close contacts include:

  • People in the same household or roommates
  • Anyone with direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions (saliva or spit), such as a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Doctors or local health departments make recommendations about who should get prophylaxis.

If you are not feeling well, or if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please take steps to limit your contact with others. If you are concerned about possible symptoms, visit your primary health care provider, urgent care or emergency department.

For questions regarding symptoms you might be experiencing, students can contact Student Health Services at 828-262-3100. AppHealthCare’s nurse on call is available 24/7 for faculty, staff or anyone with questions or concerns at 828-264-4995 extension 8.

Appalachian State University, AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department) and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are working together to share information and take action as appropriate.

We will communicate with you as needed if we learn of any additional measures we should take to prevent additional cases of meningococcemia in our community.

Thank you,

Dr. Taylor Rushing
Director of Student Health Services
Appalachian State University

Jennifer Greene
Health Director/CEO
AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department)

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