Death of University student sparks concern about meningitis exposure

The reported death of University student Lill Pagenstecher from bacterial meningitis Friday night has students and the campus community wondering about the infection.

Lill Pagenstecher

Lill Pagenstecher, 21, died Friday of bacterial meningitis.

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Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the brain and spinal chord membranes. It spreads when uninfected persons come in contact with germs from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. It can also be spread through close contact like kissing.

About 1,400 to 3,000 Americans contract meningitis each year, resulting in 150 to 300 deaths, according to Oregon State University Student Health Services report. On college campuses, 100 to 125 cases are reported each year and result in five to 15 deaths. Bacterial meningitis is usually successfully treated with antibiotics and is not as contagious as a common cold or the flu.

Symptoms — which include nausea, headache and neck pain — can occur within five to seven days after exposure. The infection is most common in adolescents and young adults. College students living in dorms or other close quarters are at a higher risk of contracting the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Josephine Woolington

Josephine Woolington