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Meningitis Information - 2019

On Wed., Sept. 19, 2018, Director of Student Health and Wellness Alice Holland shared the following message with the campus community:

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I write to inform you that a member of the campus community was diagnosed late yesterday afternoon with meningitis. This person is being treated at a local hospital, is alert, and is responding well to treatment.

It is not clear yet if this case is viral or bacterial meningitis, but in an abundance of caution, we share this information so you can be informed and aware of the symptoms of and preventative steps for either scenario. We will inform you once the patient has received a definitive diagnosis.

In keeping with Pennsylvania law, Swarthmore College requires that students living in residence halls receive the vaccine that protects against most strains of the bacteria. We work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Detection in risk surveillance and response.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis, both viral and bacterial, include:

High fever
Severe headache
Stiff neck
Sensitivity to light

These symptoms can develop over several hours, or several days. Should you experience symptoms, you should not delay in seeking treatment. Students who experience any of these symptoms or have concerns should immediately contact the Worth Health and Wellness Center at 610-328-8058 during regular business hours or the after-hours on-call nurse at 610-328-8548. Members of the faculty and staff with symptoms or concerns should contact their healthcare providers.

Viral Meningitis
Viral meningitis is often is less severe than bacterial meningitis. Nevertheless, anyone with symptoms of meningitis is urged to seek medical care. People who get viral meningitis usually get better on their own.

Bacterial Meningitis
Most people with bacterial meningitis are treated with antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis is generally transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (saliva). Vaccines are available to help prevent some kinds of bacterial meningitis.

Prevention Measures
The best way to prevent the spread of either types of meningitis is to use proper hygiene techniques. To that end, we ask that you remember these smart health tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Do not share anything that comes in contact with the mouth – water bottles, face masks, towels, drinking glasses or cups, eating utensils, cosmetics, lip balm, toothbrushes, smoking materials, or drinks from a common source.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve.

More information about viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. If you have questions, please contact Worth Health and Wellness Center.

Again, we remain committed to your wellbeing and to keeping you informed. Be assured that we will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.

Alice Holland

Alice Holland PhD, CRNP
Director, Student Health & Wellness