posted on: Monday February 23, 2015
By Brianna Abbott ’17
Four thousand moms blew up cell phones across campus early last week when Providence College notified students that one of their peers had been hospitalized for meningococcal meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and is a very serious matter. Unlike the infamous Ebola outbreak that induced fear across the nation, meningitis is actually on the PC campus. Thus far, only two have been infected, with hopefully no more on the way. Whether or not meningitis has seen its last victims in Providence, the College has done an excellent job of keeping students informed and providing for their safety.
Since the first student was diagnosed with meningitis on Monday, January 2, PC has been keeping students and staff thoroughly updated via email. We immediately knew what had happened, what the possible symptoms were, and how to prevent the infection from spreading throughout campus.
“We are in close contact with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)…The College Student Health Center staff has reached out to and interviewed those students considered to be close contacts of the student who is ill. We have also provided prophylactic treatment to these students,” said the College.
The College is pulling out all of the stops, working with the RIDOH, keeping the Health Center open 24/7 in case of emergencies, and reminding students to stay safe and cautious. Some complained that they wanted the name of the infected students revealed, but the College insisted on doctor-patient confidentiality, notifying only those closest to the infection as a necessary precaution.
The most dangerous thing about meningococcal meningitis is that the student body was not vaccinated for this particular strand upon entering college. So what does the College do? It provides us with the vaccine.
“I think the school is doing a good job given the circumstances, especially if you think about how fast this entire thing unfolded,” said Nick Mazzucca ’15.
The College managed to get the vaccine, explain the process to all of the students, and administer the vaccination to the PC population in less than a week (on Feb. 8), an impressive feat. Even more notable than that, the College held an information session with Dr. Michael Fine, the Director of the RI Health Department. Not only were the students given access to the optional vaccine but were also informed every step of the way. Even the administration of the vaccine was done efficiently; students had scheduled times to come in and left within half an hour upon arrival with virtually no confusion.
“I’m so impressed by the students, student leaders, administrators, and faculty volunteers and appreciate the support of the students. I truly believe that this is Providence College at its best—everyone taking care of each other as a collective Friar Family,” said Kristine Goodwin, vice president of student affairs.
The College has indeed come together during this serious time to put its best foot forward; however, the challenge is not over yet. The vaccination received on Feb. 8 is only the first of three parts, meaning that all students vaccinated are still vulnerable to infection.
Students still need to be on red-alert, and not share drinks, food, or anything else that could carry saliva. Even before the vaccine arrived on campus, many students continued their weekend business as usual despite the meningitis threat; that is unacceptable and dangerous. Students can continue their weekend activities, but a hook-up or shared drink could land them directly in the hospital.
This infection is something that the student body will still be susceptible to throughout the entire semester. Though the College has done everything it can to prevent meningitis from spreading, only the actions of the students can really eliminate the infection from campus. So please, be smart. An infection of the fluid in your brain and spinal cord isn’t worth an extra shot from a stranger’s glass.