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Purdue employee being treated for meningococcal disease

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tippecanoe County health officials are contacting anyone who may have had close contact with a Purdue University employee who has been diagnosed with a meningococcal infection.

The patient is under medical supervision and can no longer spread the disease, health officials said.
A letter sent Wednesday (May 13) to employees in Armstrong Hall, where the patient works, stated: “A person must have direct contact with an infected person’s saliva during the seven days prior to the onset of illness in order to become infected. The disease is not spread through casual contact or by simply being in the same room as an infected person.

“The Tippecanoe Health Department is in the process of identifying and contacting persons who have had close contact with the case and is making recommendations on who should have antibiotics to prevent infection. Close contacts include persons:

  • living in the same household as the infected person;
  • who have kissed the infected person on the mouth;
  • who have items that come in contact with an infected person’s saliva, such as drinks from the same container (i.e. water bottles, cups, glasses), eating utensils, cigarettes, or lipstick.

“For all other persons, including those who had casual contact as would occur in most work related activities, the risk of infection is very low. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for casual contacts of infected persons.”

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and sometimes a rash. Antibiotic treatment of the disease is usually successful, especially if it is started early after symptoms appear, health officials said.

The disease is relatively uncommon but can lead to serious illness. In most cases, the disease results in meningitis, but it also can lead to illnesses such as blood infection and pneumonia.

An effective vaccine for the disease is available and is encouraged for certain high-risk groups, including children and teens, as well as some international travelers, said James Westman, director of the Purdue Student Health Center.

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