John Tyler Community College student contracts meningitis

Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-10 00:29:03-04

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- A student at John Tyler Community College’s Midlothian campus is being treated for bacterial meningitis, officials announced Thursday.

The college, who has been working with the Chesterfield Health District, said they have identified potential students and professors who may have had close contact with the student. Those who have potentially been exposed may need to be treated with antibiotics.

"It's something to take heed to, stay safe, take caution and wash your hands," John Tyler student Khari Hall said.

"These things don't go ignored and that's what makes it not a problem," John Tyler student Nathan Freeman said.

However, officials stressed that people who passed the infected student, for example, in a  hall or lobby would not be considered at risk.

The campus community was warned that if someone develops symptoms, including  fever and chills, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to bright light or even a rash, they should to contact their healthcare provider.

For example, you would not be considered at risk for transmission if you pass the infected person in the hall or lobby.

"Bacterial meningitis can be serious because it's a bacterial infection of the covering of your brain and that can lead to long-term effects--deafness, seizures, death," Dr. Kevin Connelly a Chippenham Hospital Pediatric ER physician said.

Dr. Connelly is not connected to the case, but knows the disease can hit hard and fast.

"It comes on abruptly," Dr. Connelly said.  "You are sick within hours."

John Tyler

"At this time, the risk to the overall campus community is low," John Tyler Community College President Edward Raspiller wrote in an email. "The purpose of this letter is simply to make you aware of the case and provide additional information about meningitis, including ways to prevent yourself from being exposed and becoming ill."

What is meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is an infection that impacts the tissue around the brain and the central nervous system. Symptoms include fever and chills, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to bright light and even a rash.

Officials said that it can take anywhere from two to ten days from the time someone is exposed to an ill individual to develop symptoms.

Experts said that bacterial meningitis is spread by direct contact and/or droplets from the nose and mouth of persons who carry the organism in their nose and throat. This can happened when someone with bacterial meningitis coughs or sneezes in someone’s face, or by kissing or sharing personal items. For example, eating utensils, cups, water bottles, lip balm or lipstick.

"While it is possible for transmission to occur during face-to-face meetings that are held in confined spaces for sustained periods of time, the risk to students who have taken classes with the ill individual is very low," the email from the college read. "Transmission is not likely to occur during short interactions in open spaces. "


Officials said that the best way to prevent the spread of meningococcal meningitis is to avoid sharing food, drinks, cigarettes, lip balms , or other similar items. These bacteria do not survive for more than a few minutes on environmental surfaces such as tables, chairs, or objects such as clothing. Additionally, a vaccine is available for some age groups and risk criteria.

If you have questions, call the Chesterfield Health Department at 804-748-1205. Students and staff can call Dean of Students Affairs Sandra Kirkland at 804-594-1566 or 804-706-5208.

The college will host an informational session with the Chesterfield Health Department Friday at 11 a.m. for employees and students in Hamel Hall (room H109) at the Midlothian Campus.

Click here for more information on bacterial meningitis from the Virginia Department of Health.