The Drexel University student who died from meningitis on March 10 met Princeton University football players at a mixer at Drexel the week before she became sick.
Princeton Health Officer Bob Hary reported to the Princeton Health Commission last night that Stephanie Ross went to a mixer at Drexel University that was attended by between 25 and 30 Princeton University football players, along with three other community members.
“Princeton took care of all their contacts, and we took care of reaching out to the three community contacts,” Hary said. “It was very difficult to find these three guys. We discussed the issue at length with them and advised them to talk to their medical practitioners. Two of the three were given a prophylactic antibiotic, Cipro.”
The football player Ross had contact with had received two vaccinations for meningitis B. The other football players were also vaccinated.
“The case points out what a lot of people didn’t realize — just because you do a human vaccination campaign, it doesn’t mean you will prevent the disease from spreading,” Hary said. “Some people are carriers. That is the best guess from the CDC as to how this occurred…Does the vaccination decrease the probability of being a carrier? We are in uncharted water. Clearly from the most recent case it is not 100 percent effective.”
Hary said officials have been stressing and continue to stress the importance of avoiding closer personal contact with people and avoiding behaviors such as sharing food, drinks, straws, cigarettes or toothbrushes with people. The general public does not need to fear going to events on campus and activities should not be canceled. The issue is the behavior at an event.
“The real risk is sharing saliva secretions with someone,” Hary said.
Ross was found unresponsive in her sorority house on March 10 and was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. She died at the hospital. The CDC confirmed yesterday that Ross had the same strain of of meningitis from the Princeton University outbreak. 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.
A female Princeton University student who was away from campus for spring recess in March of 2013 first 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.