March 19, 2014

Drexel Meningitis Death Linked to Princeton

A Drexel University student who died Monday, March 10, was in “close contact” with students at Princeton University the week before she died. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed by “genetic fingerprinting” that the Princeton University strain of serogroup B meningococcal disease matches the strain that killed Stephanie L. Ross, 19, a sophomore majoring in engineering at Drexel University.

Ms. Ross, 19, was found “unresponsive” inside her Phi Mu sorority house on March 10 and taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia where she died.

To date, she is the ninth person associated with Princeton University to contract meningococcal disease. The other eight cases, seven Princeton University students and one campus visitor, all recovered.

“The sad news Й reminds all of us to continue to be vigilant in following good health practices to prevent the spread of this illness,” commented Princeton University spokesperson Martin Mbugua. “While it is not possible to definitively conclude how the Drexel student contracted meningococcal disease, the case indicates that the outbreak strain may still be present. We’re urging all members of the Princeton University community to continue to help prevent the spread of disease by increasing hygienic practices, and not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, smoking materials, and other items. “

At this time, the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health are not recommending that Princeton University cancel events or curtail activities. “Also, there is no evidence that family members and the community are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease from casual contact with Princeton University students, faculty, or staff,” said Mr. Mbugua. “Although transmission is from person-to-person, the bacteria are not highly contagious and require sharing respiratory and oral secretions to spread.”

A high percentage of Princeton University undergraduates and eligible graduate students received two doses of the investigational serogroup B vaccine as part of a recent vaccination effort at Princeton University. There have been no new cases among Princeton University students since the vaccination campaign began on December 9, 2013.

According to the CDC, available data show that most adolescents who receive two doses of this vaccine are protected from getting meningococcal disease. However, vaccinated individuals may still be able to carry the bacteria in their throats, which could infect others through close contact.

To date, no related cases among Drexel University students have been reported and the investigational serogroup B vaccine is not currently available to the Drexel University community.

The CDC is continuing to closely monitor the situation.