Baylor Takes Preventive Measures After Student Hospitalized With Meningococcal Meningitis

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    (L to R) - Participating in the news conference were Dr. Mark Schwartze, a neurologist who is Baylor's medical director, and Dr. Farley Verner, a Waco infectious diseases specialist and public health officer with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
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Feb. 12, 2007

The Baylor Health Center has set up a telephone hotline for students, parents, faculty and staff at (254) 710-4939 to answer any questions about meningococcal meningitis or its treatment. The hotline is staffed by Baylor registered nurses.

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275 or cell (254) 709-5959

Baylor University began a series of preventive health measures on Monday, Feb. 12, after doctors confirmed that a student was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis.

Preston Wallace, a freshman from Austin, was in ICU on Monday night at an Austin hospital. He remains hospitalized but has been moved out of intensive care and his condition is slowly improving, doctors said Tuesday.

Baylor informed all students, faculty and staff of the health concern by e-mail on Monday afternoon and encouraged those who may have had close contact with Wallace over the past five to seven days to seek preventive treatment. The Baylor Health Center extended its hours Monday until 10 p.m. to administer post-exposure treatment, which consists of a single pill, and will continue to provide the preventive treatment the rest of the week.

The Baylor Health Center has set up a telephone hotline for students, parents, faculty and staff at (254) 710-4939 to answer any questions about meningococcal meningitis or its treatment. The hotline is staffed by Baylor registered nurses.

Dr. Mark Schwartze, a neurologist who is Baylor's medical director, said the Baylor Health Center administered 400 doses of the preventive treatment on Monday night. They administered another 181 as of 6 p.m. Tuesday and 223 on Wednesday.

"We became aware Monday afternoon that our student had the type of infection that would require post-exposure treatment for those who have been in close personal contact with him," said Dr. Mark Schwartze, a neurologist who is Baylor's medical director. "We immediately assembled a team to respond to the situation and informed the campus about the preventive steps Baylor has taken to ensure the health of students, faculty and staff who may have had close contact with the student. We extended the hours of the health center Monday night for students and faculty to receive treatment. We also will provide the preventative treatment the rest of the week."

Schwartze said the post-exposure treatment is suggested even if students who are considered close contacts have had the meningitis vaccine. Alternative medications can also be used for those who cannot use the single pill.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Meningococcal meningitis is a severe form of the disease and can result in brain damage or hearing loss. Common early symptoms of the disease include fever and chills, stiff neck, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy. If symptoms are present, a person should see a doctor immediately.

The meningococcal bacteria are spread through close personal contacts with a person who is a carrier of the bacteria. Close contacts are household members, as well as those having intimate contact with the affected person through the sharing of drinking glasses, eating utensils or toothbrushes, kissing, coughing and sneezing. In addition, those spending four or more hours with the person for five to seven days before the onset of the disease are considered close contacts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, however, that treatment be started early in the course of the disease.

NOTE TO NEWS EDITORS: Streaming video of today's news conference is available now at BaylorTV.com. An MP3 audio file is available for download here.

Participating in the Feb. 13 news conference were Dr. Mark Schwartze, a neurologist who is Baylor's medical director, and Dr. Farley Verner, a Waco infectious diseases specialist and public health officer with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. In the video, Dr. Schwartze is on the left and Dr. Farley is on the right.

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