Princeton's Meningitis Outbreak Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

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Another Princeton University student was diagnosed with meningitis on Thursday, the eighth case since March according to The Daily Princetonian. The diagnosis is another scare for those attempting to stop the outbreak of the potentially deadly infection, a group which now includes school administrators, the Center for Disease Control, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the New Jersey Department of Health.

According to The Daily Princetonian, an unnamed female student checked into the University health services after feeling symptoms on Wednesday night. She is the seventh Princeton student to be diagnosed, along with one visitor to the school. After four diagnoses in the late spring, the outbreak slowed down over summer while most students were off campus. But the meningitis is back now, and appears to be accelerating, as this is the second diagnosis in the past two weeks and third in the past two months. 

To combat that, the Ivy League school, the CDC, and NJ Department of Health have taken the extraordinary step of importing an emergency, non-FDA-approved meningitis vaccine, which will be ready for Princeton students next month. The previous meningitis diagnoses have been linked to the meningitis serotype B, which does not have an approved vaccine in the United States. The emergency vaccine, Bexsero, is approved in Europe and Australia, but is in the late stages of FDA testing. “I hesitate to say it’s unprecedented, but it’s highly uncommon to have a program like this, particularly one of this scale,” said Jason Schwartz, a research associate in bioethics and vaccine policy wonk, to The Daily Princetonian. “[Health authorities] wouldn’t make this decision lightly."

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The FDA did give a provisional approval for its use in this one instance, but said it will continue testing the vaccine separately.

The hope is to cut off the spread of the contagious disease before students head home for the holiday break. Fears of a wider spread outside the University were stoked by a report of a Monmouth University employee's hospitalization with meningitis on Thursday. However, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Senior Services said it was not related to Princeton's outbreak.

It is not yet confirmed whether this most recent case is of the same strain of meningitis. The disease, spread through saliva or other close contact, results in death for about one of every seven diagnosed adolescents, according to the National Meningitis Association.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.