CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A student at John Tyler Community College’s Midlothian Campus has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. A letter was sent to their students Thursday warning them about the infection found on campus.
Bacterial meningitis is rare — the last case in the Chesterfield Health District area (which includes Powhatan and Colonial Heights) was 2009. There are about 1,000 cases a year in the whole country.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.
“In this case, it was caused by neisseria meningitidis, this is the type of bacterial meningitis that can be spread from person to person and can even cause epidemics,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, the director of the Chesterfield Health District.
That’s why leaders at John Tyler Community College and in the Chesterfield Health District are alerting students, faculty, and the community: A student at the Midlothian campus has been infected.
“It can cause death up to 15 to 20 percent of the time. It can also lead to permanent physical or neurological injury,” said Jaberi.
Jaberi says the health department has already contacted those who came into close contact with the student, but officials are warning others to look out for symptoms.
“Headache, fever, neck stiffness, the others are nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, you never know–some of these other symptoms might be the ones most predominant and we don’t want individuals to attribute those things to other things such as seasonal allergies and delay treatment,” he said, noting that the risk of infection for those on campus is very low.
The best way to prevent the spread is to avoid sharing food, drinks, even things like chapstick. Still, you can get it just by being close to the infected person.
“Either direct physical contact or through droplet secretions… droplets that are produced through coughing, sneezing,” said Jaberi.
There will be an informational session with the college and Chesterfield Health Department Friday at 11 a.m. for all employees and students. The session will be held in Hamel Hall, room H109, at the Midlothian Campus.
Students are encouraged to contact the Chesterfield Health Department at 804-748-1205 if they have any questions about the vaccination or risk of illness.