Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW student dies of meningitis

Meningitis is the likely cause of death of a 20-year-old male University of Wisconsin student who died Tuesday morning at Meriter Hospital.

Meningococcal disease is a rare bacterial infection whose potentially fatal development doctors do not fully understand.

Dean of Students Luoluo Hong said the family and friends of the student have been contacted, and she offered her condolences.


“We just want the people close to the student to know how sorry we are,” Hong said.

According to University Health Services epidemiologist Craig Roberts, the incident does not pose a health threat to the general student population.

“The only people at risk are those who had intimate contact with the student, such as a girlfriend, friends or roommates,” Craig said.

Students who may be at risk have already been contacted and given doses of antibiotics as a precaution, Craig added.

The death follows incidents in other university campuses across the state. This school year, cases have been reported at UW-Whitewater, UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls.

Last year, several meningitis cases also occurred in the UW System: two incidences at Madison, two at UW-Whitewater and two deaths at UW-Eau Claire.

Figures like these led UW freshman Julia Dauenhauer to get a meningitis shot before arriving at college this year. Confronted with fatal incidences of the disease and information about the high risk of contracting it in a dorm setting, Dauenhauer said, “The alternative [to getting the shot] is possibly getting very sick.”

“Otherwise, I would be very worried right now,” Dauenhauer added.

UW student Hana Johnson expressed her concern about the incident in light of last year’s deaths.

“Meningitis just seems like something that isn’t under control at universities,” she said. “It’s kind of sad that this is still happening.”

According to University Health Services’ website, however, one to two students, on average, will be afflicted with the disease in any given year.

The disease strikes when normally harmless bacteria living in the nose and throat invade the bloodstream. Craig reported that 5 to 10 percent of the population carries the bacteria at any time, though most remain unaffected.

Although doctors do not yet know exactly why the bacteria become invasive in some people and not others, Craig said general health of the individual and in particular the resilience of the immune system are implicated. Students who live healthier lifestyles and have stronger immune systems go a long way in protecting themselves, he added.

Hong agreed that preventative measures are relatively simple for students to implement.

“Students just need to take care of themselves and keep their immune systems strong,” she said.

The disease is not highly contagious, and only intimate contact with bodily fluids through activities such as kissing or sharing utensils will transmit the bacteria.

Symptoms that can serve as warning signs to students include severe headache, rashes, neck or back stiffness and fever.

Hong identified the role of the Dean of Students office in the incident as a source of information and support.

“We’re working to let students know exactly what this disease is,” Hong said.

She urged concerned students to educate themselves about the disease.

“The more information students can arm themselves with, the more they can allay their fears,” Hong said.

More information about meningitis is available at UHS’s website,

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