Confirmed case of meningitis under investigation in Washtenaw County

Infected individual at events in Ann Arbor, East Lansing

YPSILANTI, Mich. – The Washtenaw County Health Department is investigating a confirmed case of meningococcal meningitis reported on Wednesday.

The disease is a treatable but serious illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.

It is spread through kissing or sharing eating and drinking utensils with an infected person. It can also spread if coughed or sneezed on, or being in close proximity to an infected person for a long time, the Health Department said.

The infected individual was at the Delta Kappa Epsilon residence at 800 Oxford Rd in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Jan. 20, between 10:30 p.m. to midnight.

They were then in East Lansing on Saturday, Jan. 22, at a Sigma Beta Rho event in Club Rush at 131 Albert Ave.

“This is not an outbreak and risk to the larger community remains low, but meningococcal meningitis is a very serious illness,” said Washtenaw County Health Department medical director Juan Luis Marquez. “We are working as quickly and collaboratively as possible to provide information and treatment options to anyone with potential and direct exposure to the known case.”

Meningococcal meningitis can cause swelling around the spinal cord and brain so anyone at either event who was in close contact with the individual should seek immediate antibiotic treatment to prevent infection.

Treatment should be sought out and taken within two weeks of exposure regardless of meningococcal vaccination status.

Symptoms of the disease include sudden headache, fever, vomiting, stiff neck, confusion, rash and light sensitivity, the Health Department said. Anyone with symptoms should be evaluated by a healthcare provider right away.

The Washtenaw County Health Department is working with the University of Michigan, Ingham County Health Department and Michigan State University.

“This is a rare but potentially devastating infection that is vaccine preventable” said U-M chief health officer Dr. Preeti Malani.

“We are grateful for the ongoing partnership with the county health department. Prophylaxis [preventative treatment] involves taking a single dose of an antibiotic to prevent infection in anyone who might have had close contact with the case patient prior to illness.”

University of Michigan students who may have been exposed can contact the University Health Service here. Those with symptoms should call 734-764-8320.

Anyone who is not a U-M student should immediately contact their healthcare provider or the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700 for treatment.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.