Oct 212010
Authors: Jordyn Dahl

Health officials clarified Thursday that the Colorado State University student who officials initially believed to have died of meningitis died of sepsis brought on by meningococcal disease.

Christina Adame, 23, died Wednesday at 2 a.m. after being admitted to the hospital at around 9 p.m. Tuesday. She had complained earlier of flu-like symptoms to her mom that morning.

A coroner’s report released Wednesday night stated that meningitis was not the cause of death, causing confusion across the media. Jane Viste, the public information officer for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, sent out a press release clarifying the report.

“The Coroner’s office did not say the cause of death was not meningococcal disease. It will take 24-48 hours for the Coroner’s office lab to culture the meningococcal organism,” Viste said.

The release indicated that the coroner’s office “may have” put out the release to encourage the use of the correct term and clear up any confusion.

The coroner saw no inflammation of the brain –– a telltale sign of meningitis ­­–– and later confirmed sepsis as the cause of death. Sepsis, an illness in which bacteria overrun the bloodstream, can be caused by the same meningococcal bacterium that causes meningitis, but it affects the blood rather than the brain and spinal cord.

Adame worked at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, but health officials say clients and pets are not at risk.

Another student, freshman undeclared major Zachary Ratzlaff, was in the intensive care unit at Poudre Valley Hospital after experiencing similar symptoms. He was moved to the neurology unit later Wednesday afternoon and is in fair condition.

Some lab results found the possibility of a viral infection, but he will be treated for meningococcal disease until results are definitive. Ratzlaff lives in the C-wing of Corbett residence hall.

A resident of Ratzlaff’s hall said she has felt sick but confirmed with her mom that she has been vaccinated for meningitis.

“I’m not too worried about me,” said Rachel Szado. “I’m worried about Zach.”

Officials said they’ve found no connection between Adame and Ratzlaff.

Both students had received the meningitis vaccination, although health officials warn that the vaccination is not a 100 percent guarantee against infection. Not everyone will respond effectively to the vaccine, and it is only effective 80 to 90 percent of the time, according to Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, a physician at the Larimer County Department of Health.

Adame’s death comes on the heels of an outbreak after a pickup hockey game over the summer that left three men dead, two of them Larimer County residents. A CSU student also contracted the disease but made a full recovery. Sepsis was ruled as the cause of death for the two Larimer County men, who died in June, while the third died earlier this month from vasculitis, an inflammation of the body’s blood vessels.

LeBailly said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that, should the strain that killed Adame be the same that killed the two Larimer County men, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment will conduct a serious investigation.

Meningicoccal disease is only spread through saliva and is not airborne, and health officials do not believe there is a significant risk for the CSU campus at this time. However, they warn students to immediately contact a physician if they have symptoms or believe they are at risk.

“You can’t go to bed hoping to sleep it off or drive home to your family doctor. Seek treatment right away,” a press release from the CSU Public Safety Team said.

Students and employees who would like more information about meningococcal illnesses can attend information sessions today in the Lory Student Center Theatre at noon or 1:10 p.m.

Vaccinations are available for students at Hartshorn Health Center for $15, though health officials say that price could change depending on the cost of shipment. The center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 970-491-2147.

ASCSU Beat Reporter Jordyn Dahl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:54 pm

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