A senior at the University of Hartford has died of bacterial meningitis. Patrick Chittenden died Friday, just two weeks away from graduation.
Email and text alerts were sent out notifying University of Hartford students. The school has extended hours at the health center for those who are concerned they may have contracted the disease.
Bacterial meningitis infects the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Those infected experience flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, and vomiting.
Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief of infectious diseases at Hartford's St. Francis Hospital, said bacterial meningitis has one tell-tale symptom.
"With this particular bacteria," Wu said, "you can also get a rash on your trunk and extremities. If they have the rash, then most physicians have a high index of suspicion that it could be this."
Dr. Wu said the disease is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.
Bacterial meningitis is transmitted by saliva and mucus. That puts people in close contact with an infected person, like a significant other or a roommate, at the greatest risk for infection. Most colleges and universities, including the University of Hartford, require all freshmen to get vaccinated against meningitis, although some students may be exempt from the requirement due to health or religious reasons.
Patrick Chittenden lived in an apartment off-campus. His roommates and others close to him are being treated with a course of antibiotics as a precaution.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis in the U.S. between 2003 and 2007. Five hundred of those cases resulted in death.