Daily Princetonian pieces

Email cautions against spread of meningitis before Orange and Black Ball, Yale game

Published Nov. 14, 2013 at The Daily Princetonian.

With a number of school-wide events approaching, an email sent to students by the residential college directors of student life warned students to exercise caution over the weekend in light of the seventh case of meningitis associated with the University.

The email, which had the subject “Alcohol and Meningitis,” advised students to prevent the spread of the disease by using their own cups, washing their hands frequently, using hand sanitizer and refraining from sharing drinking glasses, smoking materials or eating utensils.

Alcohol consumption may put students at increased risk for spreading the bacteria that causes meningitis, the email warned.

“The more you drink, the more your judgment may decrease about sharing objects that come into contact with the mouth, thereby increasing your risk of disease,” it read. It also emphasized that despite the popular perception of alcohol as a sanitizer, the volume of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is not enough to prevent the spread of illness.

“Please have fun, but play it safe this weekend!” the email concluded.

The annual campus-wide Orange and Black Ball will take place on Friday night, followed by the Homecoming football game against Yale on Saturday afternoon.

The New Jersey Department of Health declared an outbreak of meningitis at Princeton on May 20, after four University-associated cases had emerged since March.

All six individuals who were diagnosed with meningitis prior to this weekend’s case have since recovered.

The seventh case involved a male University student hospitalized with possible meningococcal disease on Nov. 10. The student sought treatment at University Health Services on Saturday for symptoms of acute illness, according to a health advisory email sent to all undergraduate students Sunday evening. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

After each case, the University has sent schoolwide health advisory emails encouraging increased attention to personal hygiene. The emails urge all students who experience possible symptoms of the disease, including a high fever, headache or stiff neck, to report to UHS.

UHS has also posted reminders with information on meningococcal disease in bathrooms and dining halls, in addition to providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer and tissues at all event headquarters and meal sites. Alumni and visitors returning to campus for Reunions weekend in May received hygiene reminders in their welcome materials.

In order to combat the spread of the disease on campus, the Student Health Advisory Board distributed reusable drinking cups to the student body at the start of the semester in September. The red cups said “Mine. Not Yours.” and were intended to remind students not to share cups with other students.

“Right now, with meningitis on campus, the best way to stay safe is to only drink from your own cup,” Kathy Wagner, senior health educator for UHS, told The Daily Princetonian in September.

The strain of bacteria responsible for all six previous cases was identified as N. meningitidis serotype B. State law requires all college students living in dorms to receive a licensed meningococcal vaccine, which protects against many strains of the bacteria but does not protect against serogroup B.

The bacteria is contagious and can be spread through close contact between people, such as coughing, sneezing and sharing utensils. It is estimated that 5 to 25 percent of the general population carries the bacteria without developing symptoms of illness, the most recent health advisory said. Infection with N. meningitidis can be treated with common antibiotics.

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