CDC Confirms Princeton Meningitis Strain Killed Drexel University Student


The Drexel University student who died on March 10 was infected with the same strain of meningitis from the Princeton University outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed today.

The findings suggest that the strain of meningitis called serogroup B meningococcal disease is still present at Princeton, the CDC reported. The case marks the ninth meningitis case of serogroup B meningococcal disease associated with Princeton University.

The Drexel University  student, Stephanie Ross, was found unresponsive in her sorority house on March 10 and was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. She died at the hospital.

CDC researchers learned that Ross had been in contact with Princeton students a week before she fell ill. No other cases of meningitis B have been reported at Drexel, and students who had contact with Ross were given an antibiotic. The CDC’s laboratory analysis used genetic fingerprinting to determine that Ross had the same strain of the disease from the Princeton outbreak.

The meningitis outbreak at Princeton that began last March led to a mass vaccination of students at the university this winter. The vaccine administered in the United States doesn’t protect against the meningitis B strain. The Food and Drug Administration had to approve the use of a vaccine used in Europe and Australia. Vaccine clinics  for Princeton University students will be held 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, March 26-27 in the Frist Campus Center. Eligible individuals may receive a first or second dose.

According to the CDC, there have not been any new cases of meningitis B reported at Princeton since Dec. 9. Most adolescents who get two doses of this vaccine are protected from getting meningococcal disease, but vaccinated individuals may still be able to carry the bacteria in their throats, which could infect others through close contact, according to the CDC report.

“We recognize that when cases of meningococcal disease occur, there is increased concern about the potential spread of disease and desire to take appropriate steps to prevent additional cases,” the CDC report reads. “There is no evidence that family members and the community are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease from casual contact with Princeton University students, faculty, or staff. Although transmission is from person-to-person, this organism is not highly contagious and requires sharing respiratory and oral secretions to spread. Those at highest risk for disease are people who have had close, prolonged, or face-to-face contact with someone who has meningococcal disease.”

A female Princeton University student who was away from campus for spring recess in March of 2013 developed symptoms of meningococcal disease when returning to the area. Then a visitor on the campus April 6-8 was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis after returning to another state. A male student was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in May. A male student who lives out of state developed symptoms on his way home for summer recess in May. Another male student who developed symptoms in June while traveling abroad. A female student developed symptoms on Oct. 1, followed by two more students in November.

“Students at both Universities should be especially vigilant to the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek urgent treatment if suspected,” according to the CDC. “Symptoms may include sudden onset of a high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, or a rash. Handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes are also good practices to follow.”