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Release: Immediate

UI takes precautions after student hospitalized with meningococcal infection

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Health officials at the University of Iowa have taken a number of precautionary steps following the hospitalization of a student with a serious bloodstream infection known as meningococcemia. The student, who has not been publicly identified, was in serious condition at UI Hospitals and Clinics Friday, May 8.

Meningococcemia is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis.. Left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the brain or other organs or death. In most cases, it is spread by a respiratory route. Most people are not at risk. In fact, many people carry the bacterium that causes the disease without becoming sick.

Prolonged contact with someone who has the bacterium is required to pass it to another person, said Larry Afifi, head nurse at UI Student Health Service. "You can't get it just by being in class, by riding on a bus or by going to the library."

Because the disease is most often spread through close contact with the person who has it, UI officials have taken steps to identify students and others who may have had close contact with the affected student. Close contact can include sharing items such as a toothbrush, drinking glass or eating utensils, or sharing bodily fluids.

These are the precautionary steps the UI has taken:

* Treating the affected student's two roommates with a drug that works well as a preventive therapy.

* Meeting with students who live on the same floor of Burge Residence Hall as the affected student. Representatives from Student Health Services and Residence Services provided information on the cause and symptoms of the disease as well as the treatments used to prevent the spread of the disease.

* Contacting other students who have been identified as high risk because of close contact.

* Because there is currently only one case of the bloodstream infection, health officials are not recommending the use of a vaccine that is also used as a preventive measure.

University officials have been consulting with the Johnson County Department of Health and with epidemiologists at UI Hospitals and Clinics about the appropriate steps to take in response to the case.

Students or others who have questions about possible contact are encouraged to call the UI Student Health Service at (319) 335-8370.