CU-Boulder Student Dies Of Meningitis; Campus Initiates Public Health Response

Published: Feb. 2, 1997

A student at the University of Colorado at Boulder died Monday, Feb. 3, at University Hospital in Denver following a short illness diagnosed as meningococcal meningitis.

Scott Matthew Connett, 19, a sophomore prejournalism major from Longmont, entered University Hospital on Sunday, Feb. 2. He lived at Farrand Residence Hall on campus.

University and Boulder County Health Department officials are investigating the single case and report that no other cases of the disease have been identified.

"We are saddened and shocked by the death of our student, Scott Connett," said Chancellor Richard L. Byyny. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We extend our deepest sympathies and offer our counseling services to anyone who needs assistance during this sad time."

Meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, and its accompanying bloodstream infections are rare but potentially dangerous, said Dr. Jim Schlegel, a physician at CU-Boulder1s Wardenburg Health Center.

"The risk for contracting this disease is low, but individuals who have had close intimate contact with the victim are advised to receive antibiotic treatment as a preventive measure," Dr. Schlegel said. Intimate contact includes kissing, sharing eating utensils, and being exposed to droplet contamination from the nose or throat.

Others with concerns about the case may call Wardenburg's special hotline set up at 492-6083.

Dennis Lenaway, Boulder County Health Department epidemiologist, said, "It's important to remember that a single case does not constitute an outbreak. Such isolated cases occur from time to time, especially during the winter and early spring months. Nevertheless, we recommend that anyone experiencing symptoms of the disease contact their physician."

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include fever, severe sudden headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy.

Lenaway said, "If anyone feels they are in the at-risk group by having had close personal contact with the victim, they should call the Boulder County Health Department at 441-1417 for further information." CU-Boulder students, faculty or staff in the at-risk group may receive antibiotic treatment at Wardenburg Health Center.

CU-Boulder has launched an information program to answer questions and respond to concerns about the disease, said Ron Stump, dean of students. Special informational materials and consultation are being provided to residents of Farrand Hall, as well as to other students expressing an interest. Victim advocacy and counseling staff members are available to work with individuals needing assistance.