By Analise Nelson
Last week PLNU students received an email from the Vice President for Student Development, Caye Smith, with a statement made by the Wellness Center Consulting Physician, Dr. Charley Hardison. In the email he informs all students, faculty and administrators about a preliminary diagnosis of viral meningitis on campus. A student received a preliminary diagnosis from the Wellness Center based on her symptoms.
The symptoms the student had shown, included a stiff neck, stiff back, cold chills, light sensitivity, loss of appetite, nausea and severe headaches. Based on these, she was sent to the emergency room where she was tested for viral meningitis with a lumbar puncture.
According to the Mayo Clinic Organization, a lumbar puncture is a puncture made in the lower spine between two lumbar (vertebrae) bones to extract spinal fluid, called cerebrospinal fluid, to detect for meningitis.
According to PLNU sophomore nursing major, Jasmine Paulus, typical symptoms for adults with meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, sleepiness, or trouble waking up from sleep-similar to the ones that the student had displayed. Viral meningitis causes swelling or inflammation in the meninges of the brain and spinal cord.
“It is possible for viral meningitis to spread I believe through the respiratory route, but specifically, viral meningitis is the most common and usually clears on its own,” she said. Paulus advises all to get vaccinated to lower the chances of an outbreak on campus.
Another nursing major and junior at PLNU, Stephanie Knepper, said that Viral meningitis is usually caused by enterovirus and that it’s airborne or droplet transmitted, so someone would have to get it from being close to another person. There are vaccines for it but they aren’t commonly given because viral meningitis can be caused by many different viruses, she said.
Infectious outbreaks have occurred on PLNU’s campus in the past and have been handled quickly, Smith said. The Wellness Center has a plan and protocol they follow in the case of an infectious outbreak. “We have managed numerous infectious outbreaks over the years, including norovirus and H1N1. When we see a pattern of infectious occurrence, we consult immediately with our physician and with the San Diego County Department of Public Health. We implement their advice immediately,” said Smith in an email interview.
. The protocol according to the Wellness Center, is washing hands, not sharing drinks or utensils, and avoiding contact sports.
“As you can imagine, communicable illness can travel rapidly in a residential environment. Because we respond quickly and aggressively to manage infectious outbreaks on campus, we have been very successful in curbing the spread of illness,” Smith said.
The PLNU student’s test results came back negative for meningitis; however, the results are positive for mononucleosis, better known as “mono”. Knepper said that this disease is transmitted through kissing, sharing drinks or getting coughed or sneezed on. There is no vaccine for mono and it is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.
According to the Mayo Clinic Organization, mono is not usually very serious. The organization says that most adults have been exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus at one point in their lives and have built up antibodies to the disease. This means that they are immune and will likely not get mononucleosis again.
“The best way to prevent spreading is basic hygiene such as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough,” Knepper said.