Death of student increases meningitis fear

By Rob Heselbarth

The fear of getting meningitis has greatly increased due to the recent death of another Illinois college student.

Peter D. Giese, an Eastern Illinois University sophomore from Batavia, was found dead Thursday after suffering from meningitis.

“Meningitis is a germ that is generally not seen in this area of the world, specifically, North America,” said Sara Susmano, chief of Medical Staff at NIU’s Health Service.

“However, there are times when there are epidemics of the sickness,” Susmano said. “This means that there is an increase in the germ’s availability to the public.”

According to The Daily Eastern News, Richard Larson, the chief physician at EIU’s Health Service stated, “This is not an epidemic.”

Larson said 5-10 percent of the population are carriers of the meningitis bacteria, but don’t actually fall victim to the disease.

“It takes a particular problem within the individual to aggravate the germ,” Susmano said. “If the person is extremely tired or doesn’t eat well, the germ can become violent, causing the person to contract the disease.”

The symptoms of meningitis are very similar to those of the flu, Susmano said.

“It is a flu-like syndrome with a sore throat, high fever, backache, severe headache and vomiting,” she said.

“At first it might seem like the flu, but there is a big difference between the two. With meningitis, there is a very rapid progression of the symptoms.

“The symptoms could come on in a couple of hours, or it might take a day or two, depending on the individual,” Susmano said. “The person will not only feel very sick but will look very sick as well,” she added.

“If you have a high fever, above 103 degrees, and it is not responding to Tylenol and you have a persistent sore throat, a doctor should see the person immediately,” she said.

Susmano said it is better if the person calls the health center first. “That way, we can be better prepared to take care of the patient,” she said.

Susmano said there are some things students can do to help prevent getting the germ.

“Students should try to avoid crowded places, they should not share their drinks, they should have a good diet, be well rested and be in good physical shape,” Susmano said.

The health center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.