Columbia University shares its concern for the seven students diagnosed with bacterial meningitis at Princeton University since March 2013.
Columbia Health has monitoring the situation closely and are maintaining lines of communication with Princeton health officials and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
There is currently no specific additional risk to the Columbia community associated with the Princeton outbreak.
In an effort to keep the campus healthy and safe, we wish to provide the Columbia community with additional information about bacterial meningitis:
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord, collectively known as “the meninges”. Inflammation may be caused by infectious organisms, such as certain viruses and bacteria, and also by non-infectious agents. Due to the close proximity of the meninges to the brain and spinal cord, meningitis of any cause is always considered very serious, potentially life threatening, and a medical emergency.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is meningitis caused by the bacterium, Neisseria meningitides, which can also cause a blood infection known as “meningococcemia”. Neisseria has been shown to be the infectious agent in common with all seven cases among Princeton students.
What are the symptoms of bacterial meningitis?
Early symptoms of meningitis may include fever, body aches, headaches, and feeling very tired or sleepy. Other symptoms that may occur are stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, light sensitivity, and rash.
How do people contract bacterial meningitis?
The two bacteria most commonly associated with meningitis are N. meningitides and Streptococcus pneumonia). The risk of infection are limited to those who have been in direct contact with infected individuals through household or intimate contact. These specific activities have been associated with the spread of these bacteria by:
- Sharing eating utensils or food
- Sharing drinks or cigarettes
- Uncovered face-to-face sneezing and coughing
It is important to note that casual contact activities, like being in the same classroom or office with a sick person, is generally not associated with the spread of these two bacteria.
Is there a vaccine against this infection?
There are two available vaccines in the United States to prevent bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitides. These vaccines are available to students at the Health Services on the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and Morningside campuses.
These vaccines helped prevent infection caused by specific “serogroups” of N. meningitidis: A, C, Y, and W-135. They do not prevent infection with serogroup B, which has been shown to be the cause in the majority of Princeton cases.
Any student interested in receiving the meningitis vaccine can schedule a medical appointment at Medical Services:
Phone: (212) 854-7426
In-person: Medical Services Information Desk (John Jay Hall, 3rd Floor)
Is there any other important information I should know about?
Men who have sex with men should be aware of an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in New York City, which began in 2010. There have been no additional reported cases for a number of months, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Where can I get more information?
The following links provide additional helpful information:
- Princeton outbreak: http://www.state.nj.us/health/
- Go Ask Alice!: http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/meningitis
- General information:
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported exposure to hepatitis A, between August 9 and August 22, at the West Side Market, located at 2589 Broadway between 97th and 98th Streets. Additional information about precautionary measures are available on the Health Department website.
Beginning Thursday, August 1, 2013, Disability Services will relocate to Wien Hall Suite, 108A (1st floor). Alice! Health Promotion and the Columbia Health Insurance and Immunization Compliance Office will relocate to Lerner Hall, Room 700 (7th floor). More information about accessible routes to Lerner Hall and Wien Hall are indicated below.
To Wien Hall:
- If exiting Lerner Hall, use campus level (2nd floor) and travel north to College Walk.
- From College Walk, head east toward Amsterdam Avenue.
- Cross Amsterdam Avenue and continue traveling east on the north side of 116th Street.
- Turn left at the Wien Hall gates, midblock.
- Entrance to Wien Hall is on the right.
To Lerner Hall:
- Cross Amsterdam Avenue and continue traveling west on College Walk to the Broadway wheelchair ramp, adjacent to Pulitzer Hall (Journalism building).
- Travel south on walkway.
- Use campus entrance to Lerner Hall.