Vanderbilt student being treated for bacterial meningitis

A Vanderbilt University student was in stable condition Monday at the university’s hospital where she is being treated for bacterial meningitis.

Sung In Kim, 21, an Arts and Science senior from Rossville, Ga., was admitted to the intensive care unit after being taken by ambulance from her room in Carmichael Towers to the Vanderbilt emergency room about 1 a.m. Monday suffering from a severe headache and high fever.

After tests confirmed Kim had meningococcal bacterial meningitis, up to 12 students and others who had immediate contact with her received an antibiotic to reduce the chance of transmission. University officials were alerting others on campus who might have come in close contact with the student.

Meningococcal bacterial meningitis is a relatively rare but life-threatening infection that is spread by close contact with an infected person. The Centers for Disease Control defines “contact” as intimate contact, such as kissing, or prolonged, close, face-to-face contact, as in the case of a roommate or teammate. “Casual” contacts in the classroom setting or as a spectator at an athletic event would not be considered high risk contacts.

Dr. William Schaffner, chair of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Preventive Medicine, said Kim was responding well to treatment and he praised the swift action of those who sought help for her.

“Thanks to the quick response of her friends who had her brought promptly to the ED, she has a good chance of being spared of the potentially devastating consequences of the infection,” Schaffner said.

The risk of infection in close contacts can be greatly reduced by taking one tablet of the antibiotic Cipro, Dr. Louise Hanson, medical director of Student Health Services, said. There are alternatives for those contacts who are allergic to Cipro. Any students who might have come in close contact with Kim in the past week, even those who might have received a meningococcal vaccine, were being urged to come to the Student Health Center to obtain preventive medication free of charge.

“Since the meningococcal vaccines do not cover all strains of the disease, even students who have had the vaccine should receive the preventive medication if they have had close contact with Ms. Kim,” Hanson said.

The university also advised anyone experiencing fever and headache to go to the Student Health Center or the Vanderbilt Emergency Department to be examined.

Media Contact: Elizabeth Latt, (615) 322-NEWS

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