SINGLE CASE OF MENINGITIS CONFIRMED AT TENNESSEE TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY

Medical tests confirm that a Tennessee Technological University student hospitalized Wednesday afternoon is suffering from bacterial meningitis.

Student David Lee "Tiger" Cavanaugh, 18, is reported in guarded condition at Baptist Hospital in Nashville.

No other cases of the disease have been reported in the region, according to campus health officials, who began taking preventive measures to protect Tennessee Tech students, faculty and staff immediately after the student was hospitalized.

A vaccine for meningitis will be available on campus in limited supply at the Student Health Services Office early next week, and the cost is about $70.

"The vaccine provides no benefit pertaining to this particular case, because it takes 10 days to take effect, but it would certainly be advisable as a preventive measure should future cases arise," said Randy Tompkins, supervisor of Student Health Services. "In general, I would advise it for all college students."

Meningitis may be contagious, but there is no reason to panic, say health-care providers. Officials at Tennessee Tech have taken the necessary precautions with the medical community and the Putnam County Health Department, where staff members are contacting and providing preventive treatment to those individuals who had been in direct contact with the student.

Health-care professionals emphasize that the disease cannot be spread through the air. Those who have not had direct, personal contact with the affected person are not at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions -- for instance, coughing, sneezing or kissing. None of the meningitis bacteria are as contagious as the cold or flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Tennessee Tech's Dean of Students Office briefed dormitory resident advisers Wednesday afternoon. Staff members at Student Health Services are working with students concerned about the disease. The Student Affairs Office disseminated information across campus yesterday. Faculty members began alerting students in classes yesterday as well. The university has added a "health alert" section to its World-Wide Web site (www.tntech.edu) containing links to more information about the disease.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain’s lining and spinal cord. Symptoms are flu-like, including a fever over 101 degrees and a severe, sudden headache accompanied by neck or back stiffness.

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms or who has questions about the disease should call his or her personal physician or the Cookeville Regional Medical Center at 528-2541. Parents of Tennessee Tech students with questions or concerns can call the university's Office of Student Affairs at 372-3411 or Student Health Services at 372-3320.

In the past academic year, 83 cases of meningococcal disease were reported on U.S. college campuses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.