University warns of dangers of meningitis

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St Andrews Hospital
St Andrews Hospital

The University has warned students of the potential dangers of meningitis.

Last week, University Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne emailed students to inform them a student had been hospitalised with meningococcal infection. The student’s condition was, at the time, described as critical.

Professor Milne has sent a second email advising students that the student’s condition is now “stable”, but that they remain in intensive care.

Professor Milne also wrote that a second student had been hospitalised with a different strain of the disease.

Going on, Professor Milne said, “The second student has now been discharged from hospital.  The small number of people who were in prolonged close contact with both students have been identified and offered antibiotics.

“It is important to stress that the strains of bacteria isolated from the two students are different, hence the cases are sporadic and entirely unrelated.

“Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially very serious condition.  There are around 10 cases a year in Fife for a population of about 360 000 people.

“The organism that causes meningococcal disease is a normal inhabitant of the human nose and throat and most people develop immunity to the bacteria within two weeks of acquiring it.  The percentage of people who carry the bacteria varies by age and is about 2% in children under five years to around 25% in 15 to 19 year olds.

“People who carry the bacteria do not usually develop the illness.  Rarely, a small number of people develop meningococcal disease instead of developing immunity.

“The meningococcal organism isn’t readily transmissible between people.  It takes prolonged, close contact for the organism to be transmitted from one person to another.  Examples include people living in the same household, sexual partners, or a long car journey like sharing a small car from St Andrews to Birmingham.  Antibiotics are not normally given to casual contacts of meningococcal infection as there is no evidence that further cases will be prevented.

“Obviously, it is important that meningococcal infection is recognised early and appropriate medical advice and treatment sought, and we would therefore advise you to familiarise yourself with symptoms and signs of infection.”

Professor Milne went on to list resources students could make use of if they were concerned.

“A helpful description and explanation of symptoms can be found at http://www.meningitis.org/symptoms

“If you have any symptoms of illness you are worried about, you should contact NHS 24 by dialling 111.

“The University’s Student Services unit has professional staff to answer any queries you may have and if you wish to discuss any concerns you have with them you should contact the ASC (theasc@st-andrews.ac.uk) or call 01334 462020.  Outside of office hours you can speak to someone on the University’s helpline on 01334 476161.

“Further information may be obtained from the charity ‘Meningitis Research’.  This charity has a 24-hour free-phone helpline (0808 800 3344) for information and advice, together with a website (http://www.meningitis.org).”

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