Meningitis alert at Univ. of Hartford

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Health officials at the University of Hartford are working extra hours this week after an off-campus student died from bacterial meningitis.

Senior Patrick Chittenden died from the contagious disease over the weekend. If caught, meningitis is treatable with antibiotics.

Doctors say it’s a communicable disease.

“You have to have close contact with the individual. Basically less than 3 feet for an extended period of time. Share secretions of saliva with that person,” said Dr. Ulyssess Wu, Chief of Infectious Diseases at St. Francis Hospital.

The problem is meningitis can mimic a lot of other illnesses but health care providers are trained to be aware of any form of meningitis that might pop up.

University of Hartford students are required to get the meningitis vaccine but there are many types of the disease.

“The vaccination is actually very good and it is protected to a certain extent and with the vaccination we’ve seen, since it doesn’t protect against all types, we’ve seen more of a shift toward the one type that is does not protect you because it is so effective against the other types,” said Wu.

Dr. Wu says it is treatable if you catch it early enough with antibiotics.

“I think recognition of the disease, if anyone has had close contact with this individual they should notify the doctor or health provider,” said Wu.

In a message that went out to students, faculty and staff, the university listed these warning signs:

• High Fever
• Severe headache
• Extremely stiff neck
• Nausea/vomiting
• Red rash
• Sensitivity to bright lights
• Confusion/irritability

Campus Health Services will be open at 8 o’clock this morning to screen students. They’re also staying open late tonight.

If you have had close contact (within three feet for any length of time) with Patrick during the past three weeks and you have any of these symptoms, you should visit a local emergency room as soon as you can to determine the meaning of the symptoms.

In the message, Dr. J. Lee Peters, Vice President for Student Affairs, said “On behalf of the University, I again want to offer our deepest condolences to Patrick’s family and friends.”

The phone number for the student health center is 860.768.6601.

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