Wednesday, September 2, 2015

CDC: Drexel student died from meningitis strain seen in Princeton outbreak

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A Drexel University student who died from meningitis last week contracted the same strain of the disease seen in an outbreak at Princeton University, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Princeton said in a statement today that the Drexel student had been in contact with Princeton students a week before becoming ill.

A CDC analysis found that "the outbreak strain at Princeton and the strain in the Drexel case match by 'genetic fingerprinting,'" Princeton's statement says.

Stephanie Ross, a sophomore mechanical engineering major at Drexel, was found unresponsive in her sorority house on March 10. She was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where she died.

Over the past year, eight other cases have been reported at Princeton. None of those cases were fatal.

"While it is not possible to definitively conclude how the Drexel student contracted meningococcal disease, the case indicates that the outbreak strain may still be present," Princeton's statement said. "It does not indicate whether or not more cases will occur at Drexel or Princeton universities."

All of the cases thus far have involved the same strain, called type B. Meningitis vaccines in the United States protect against four strains of meningococcal disease, but not against type B.

After the CDC declared an outbreak of the disease at Princeton, officials there made a vaccine for type B available. That vaccine hasn't been approved for general use in the United States, but is licensed for use in Australia and Europe. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing its limited use at Princeton.

Meningitis, which can be treated by antibiotics if caught early, is spread through close personal contact such as kissing and sharing food or utensils. Outbreaks of the disease occur most frequently at places where many people live in close quarters, such as college campuses.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.


Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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