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Mich. Student Catches Meningitis

October 11, 1999

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Antibiotics were being made available to more than 1,500 students at Michigan State University after a sophomore came down with bacterial meningitis.

Students who live in the university’s Wilson Hall began lining up Sunday night to receive drugs to fight the potentially fatal disease. Valentine Gutierrez, 18, a business freshman from Texas, was among those in line.

``At first I wasn’t going to, but then I thought, ’I do live on his floor, ‴ she said. ``Better safe than sorry.″

Adam Busuttil began feeling ill Friday night, passed out in his Wilson Hall dorm room on Saturday evening and was taken by ambulance to Sparrow Hospital.

A hospital spokesman declined to give out information on Busuttil’s condition. But Daniel Havlichek, an associate professor in Michigan State’s Department of Medicine, said Busuttil’s condition was considered critical.

Two Michigan State students have died of bacterial meningitis since 1996.

Busuttil is a member of the school’s marching band but did not perform Saturday during the game against Michigan University, school officials said. They declined to say what instrument he played, but said it was not an instrument in which he would share a mouthpiece with others.

School officials declined to disclose further information about Busuttil, saying the only reason they were releasing Busuttil’s name was so that students who had come into contact with him could take action.

The school already has notified Busuttil’s suitemate and was contacting people who may have had contact with him. Antibiotics also were to be made available to the 200 band members today.

A vaccine will be made available to other students, faculty and staff throughout the week and through the rest of the month, university President Peter McPherson said.

The vaccine is generally about 80 percent to 90 percent effective, but takes 10 days to two weeks before it begins to work. McPherson says the vaccine costs more than $50 per dose and will be paid by the school.

``Clearly this is a major expense, but on the other hand this is a health step we have to take,″ McPherson said. ``It will be a sizable bill, no question.″

The vaccine protects against four of the five strains of bacterial meningitis. Doctors have not yet determined which strain Busuttil contracted.

A fact sheet e-mailed to students said bacterial meningitis has an average mortality rate of between 2 percent and 10 percent, with early recognition and treatment being the crucial variables.

Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, headache, a stiff neck, vomiting, confusion and sleepiness.

It is usually spread through intimate contact, being touched or kissed, sharing eating utensils or any secretions or excretions from the body. The best protection is a balanced diet, adequate sleep, appropriate exercise and the avoidance of drinking, smoking and excessive stress.

Dr. Dean Sienko, medical director of the Ingham County Health Department, said that the incidence of bacterial meningitis is higher in dorms, military barracks or in other places where people live in large groups.

``It’s a sporadic illness that we don’t fully understand,″ he said.

In September 1996, a Michigan State student died after contracting bacterial meningitis strain B, the strain the vaccine is ineffective against. In February 1997, a student who contracted strain C died. In March 1997 another student contracted strain C and survived.

In 1997, 19,000 student, faculty and staff at the school received the vaccine. There are about 40,000 students at the school.

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