A meningitis outbreak may never afflict Dillard University; however, university officials are working to prevent such an outbreak, after it was suspected that a student died from the disease.
Dr. Takeshia Charles Davis, regional medical director from the Office of Public Health and Hospitals (OPH), told students there is not an epidemic on Dillard’s campus during a disease prevention forum.
Over half the student body filled Dillard’s Lawless Memorial Chapel to participate in Tuesday’s all campus student forum mandated by Dillard’s President Dr. Marvelene Hughes.
The forum panel consisted of medical professionals and personnel who discussed meningitis immunization, disease prevention and current resources for faculty, staff and students.
Davis told students that the Louisiana Office of Public Health will be on campus Wednesday, Jan. 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to administer free vaccines to fight meningococcal infections.
“Normally, this shot would cost around $120, but the Office of Public Health has partnered with Dillard to give these services at no cost for faculty, staff and students,” said Davis.
Hughes informed the students at the forum that the purpose of this assembly was to raise questions and seek advice from experts. “We have endured many challenging times and we are here today to endure the challenges in front of us now,” said Hughes.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), meningitis is an infection of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may develop in response to a number of causes, most prominently bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents, but also physical injuries, cancer or certain drugs.
Meningococcal disease can be contracted by anyone, said Dr. Linda Kirby, a physician at Tulane University.
College freshmen who live in dormitories have an increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease, Kirby said.
While the precise type of meningitis, either viral or bacterial, is not yet known, the university is following the protocol concerning bacterial meningitis recommended by the OPH.
“Vaccination is critical and we should choose to get everyone vaccinated,” said Kirby.
According to the CDC, symptoms of meningitis includes fever, severe and constant headache, stiff neck or neck pain, nausea and vomiting, and a rash. There are several efforts to prevent students from contracting the disease. The CDC officials say not to eat or drink after other people, or make contact with anything that may have touched their mouth, such as lipstick, used cups or drinking glasses.
Kirby advised students about the importance of seeking medical care early because death usually occurs within 24 hours or less of contracting the disease.
There are nearly 3,000 cases of meningococcal disease reported every year in the United States, according to the CDC. In spite of treatment with antibiotics, 10 to 15 percent of these cases result in death.
Students believe disease prevention is very important on college campuses.
“I think you should have some personal initiative to take precautions when it comes to your personal health,” said Lekisha Hall, a senior elementary and special education major from Las Vegas. “However, in instances like this, it is somewhat the school’s responsibility.”
Disease prevention is very important- it’s a life or death situation, said Hall.
“The assembly was helpful because all majors are not associated with health,” said Alaina Smith, a junior nursing major from Harvey, La. “Students who are medical field majors know about viruses and bacteria, but other majors don’t really know about these things, which leave them at a disadvantage. This assembly was helpful because it educated the entire Dillard community and staff about this virus.”