Meningitis claims the life of a Cornell University student, leaving a community in mourning and raising concerns about the deadly disease. Tamara Lindstrom has more on the investigation into the case and what you can do to protect yourself.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Days after a 19-year-old Cornell student falls ill, she loses her life to meningitis. Krista Depew had just returned home to Argyle, New York after her freshman year. She was rushed to the emergency room Friday and passed away Saturday. A tragic death that has raised concern in the college community.
"We don't see a lot of cases, but certainly it's an issue that we're aware of," said Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County public health director. "Any time you have large populations of communal living, such as educational facilities, there's a concern for all sorts of communicable diseases. So we pay very close attention in the community."
Because of privacy laws, health officials aren't releasing many of the details surrounding Depew's death. But they say they're confident neither her fellow students nor the community at large is at any increased risk.
"There are a large number of experts and public health professionals that are involved and reviewing all the information, and making decisions for what the best response for the community is. And we believe that has been taken at this point," Kruppa said.
The disease is passed through coughing and sneezing, much like the common cold. Officials say vaccination is the best protection.
"There is a vaccine for meningitis and we would encourage children, once they get to the 11- or 12-year-old range to be vaccinated," Kruppa said. "And then a booster three to five years after that."
The vaccine is effective in 70 to 80 percent of cases. Depew's mother did tell the Glens Falls Post Star that her daughter was vaccinated against the disease.
Patients can be tested for meningitis and early treatment can save lives.
"It's treated with antibiotics. And 80 to 85 percent of cases do recover," Kruppa said. "So it is treatable and if we can catch it quickly and get folks treated, then there are positive outcomes."
Officials recommend seeking treatment from a health care professional if you feel you are at risk for meningitis.