Most students not immunized for meningitis type found in sickened UW students, University Health Service says

University health official: Stop spread of respiratory illness, don't share drinking glasses

MADISON, Wis. - Two University of Wisconsin-Madison students were hospitalized with meningitis this week, the university said Friday. 

UW-Madison University Health Service said it is coordinating with officials from the state and Public Health Madison & Dane County. UHS said it has also reached out to individuals who have been in close contact with the patients.

UHS said in a news release Tuesday that both cases have been identified as serogroup B. Most students are immunized against serogroup ACYW but not against serogroup B. The serogroup B vaccine has only recently become available.

Additional genetic testing is being conducted to determine if the bacteria in both cases are also closely related.

People who may have had close contact with these students have been contacted and treated as a precaution, university health officials said.

Meningococcal disease most often causes meningitis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It's very rare, often comes on suddenly and can progress rapidly. Symptoms include high fever (greater than 101 degrees F) and accompanied by severe headache, neck stiffness and confusion. Vomiting or rashes may also occur. Anyone with these symptoms should contact a health care provider or go to an emergency room immediately.

University health officials said both students are recovering. Additional details were withheld because of the medical privacy of the students and their families.

Dr. William Kinsey, a physician and director of medical services at UHS, said the health service is investigating whether the two cases are related.

"Depending on that determination, a vaccine recommendation from UHS may be forthcoming," Kinsey said in a statement. 

Meningococcal disease is typically treated with antibiotics.

University health officials said meningococcal bacteria are spread through close contact with an infected person's oral or nasal secretions, such as by sharing cups.

Kinsey said the university is encouraging students to limit the spread of respiratory illness by not sharing cups, glasses or other items.

Questions from the campus community can be directed to UHS said students who are concerned or have questions about their health can  contact UHS at 608-265-5600. For students experiencing symptoms over the weekend, the UHS nurse line is available at 608-265-5600, option 1.

The Wisconsin Immunization Registry contains records for children and adults who were vaccinated in the state.

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