Jun 222010
Authors: Madeline Novey

After a second local hockey player died of meningococcal disease Tuesday, a CSU physician urged the CSU and Fort Collins communities to follow “kindergarten” hygiene practices to lessen chances of contracting what’s commonly called meningitis.

With thousands of people filtering through campus and hundreds staying overnight in the residence halls for campus and conferences, CSU Health Network Infection Control Physician Jane Higgins said the university is always “concerned about communicable diseases.”

But, she said, people can protect themselves by monitoring the severity of their symptoms –– these include fever, sensitivity to light and stiffness in the neck and resemble cold and flu symptoms –– by washing their hands and not sharing a water bottle or lib balm, which can transmit the disease through saliva.

Nick Smith, 28, died early Tuesday. His death follows that of 29-year-old Brian Wormus, who succumbed to bacterial meningitis last Monday.

Experts from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment said it is likely that the two men, both members of the Fort Collins Adult Hockey Association C League, picked up the bacteria while playing in a hockey game on June 9 at the Edora Pool and Ice Center.

In addition to the two deaths, one man remains in the intensive care unit in a Montana hospital. After falling ill over Memorial Day Weekend, a CSU student, whose gender and age were not identified, was transferred to a Denver-area rehabilitation hospital, Higgins said.

County officials said that another individual from the Denver area died from meningococcal disease in April.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, will receive samples of the bacteria today, said Adrienne LeBailly, the director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The center will then test the sample’s “genetic footprint” and compare that to the makeup of strains that have occurred across the nation and world to determine what exactly the county is dealing with.

In the cases of the bacteria responsible for the two deaths, the Montana man and CSU student, it’s likely the strains are the same, LeBailly said Tuesday afternoon.

In 2008, there were 16 cases of meningococcal disease in Colorado resulting in a 12.5 percent mortality rate, said Lisa Miller, the director of the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Based on the number of cases and deaths in Larimer County at this time, LeBailly said this “appears to be a relatively severe strain” introduced in Colorado.

At this time, the county has focused its immunization efforts on members of the Fort Collins Adult Hockey Association. To date, approximately 65 people have received antibiotics and 55 vaccinations.

Normally, Higgins said that students need not come in to the CSU Health Network for headaches, fever and sore throat. In light of recent events, however, they should.

“We’ll see anyone concerned with their health,” she said.

The meningitis vaccination is available for $105, Monday through Friday at the Health Network. There is no shortage of vaccines at this time, Higgins said. But if demand increases, the network will order more doses.

To reduce the risk of contracting the disease, Higgins recommended:

  • Not sharing bottles, drinks or cigarettes,
  • Wash their hands, and
  • Cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough.

More information is available on CDC’s website, www.cdc.org or by calling the county’s meningitis hotline at (970) 498-6706.

Information is also available at www.safety.colostate.edu.
Editor in Chief Madeline Novey is available at news@collegian.com._

About symptoms of meningitis

If you think a person has symptoms that suggest meningitis, contact your doctor immediately, call 911 for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Signs and symptoms may include:
Loss of appetite
Rash of red-purple pinprick spots or
Larger bruises
Neck stiffness
Painful or swollen joints
Discomfort when looking at bright lights (photophobia)
Nausea and/or vomiting
Aching or sore muscles
Difficulty walking
General malaise
Moaning, unintelligible speech

(Information from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment)

 Posted by at 4:45 pm

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