by Haley Burnside & Joseph Liggio
Midway through Labor Day weekend, the phones of Manhattan College students lit up with a safety advisory email that made many feel far from safe.
“One of our students is currently undergoing tests for meningitis,” read the email. “The College is awaiting confirmation from the NYC Department of Health.”
The message advised students to “continue with common sense precautions including hand washing, avoid sharing drinks, and intimate contact.”
The following day, another safety advisory email was sent out, this time coming from Director of Residence Life Andrew Weingarten. This message stated that, while there was still no confirmation of meningitis, common sense safety was still suggested as a preventative measure.
Weingarten’s message assured students that “there is no reason to worry.”
“The Department of Health is confident that this is well contained and no further concern to the community is anticipated,” read the email.
Despite the message, some students were left more confused than reassured.
“Initially I panicked a bit and I made sure that I asked my parents to double check that I had my shots, which I know a few other people did as well,” said sophomore Silvana Acierno. “I think the school sent out the email with the medical information a while after the first one was sent out which I wish had been sent out sooner.”
Similarly, those who lived in close proximity to the afflicted student voiced concern over the possibility of transmission.
Alex Licari, a freshman living in Chrysostom Hall, had the distinction of dorming on the same floor as the student, which resulted in a much different experience than for most living on campus.
“I was like, ‘that’s not good.’ Yeah I was definitely not happy about that,” said Licari. “But everyone else on the floor was pretty calm about it, they actually all knew he had it before, like when we got the email we already knew he had it because one of the kids took him to the hospital.”
Licari said that the student in question told him he was experiencing extreme headaches, difficulty walking in a straight line, and “exaggerated flu-like symptoms.”
“I was thinking, like, he touches a doorknob, right? Now I touch a doorknob… what if, you know?”
Licari and the others living on his floor were instructed by their resident assistant to report to the Health Services in Alumni Hall to take an antibiotic pill on Sept. 5. This pill was also offered to other RA’s in Chrysostom.
“With help from the New York City Department of Health, we identified the individuals, including students and staff, who may have been exposed and contacted them directly to offer them the option to receive prophylactic antibiotics, free of charge,” said Weingarten.
Nurse Amy Dall, the original sender of the first safety advisory message, was unable to provide further comment on information concerning the emails or the antibiotics.
Peter McHugh, director of communications at MC, referenced information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding meningococcal meningitis.
“Infectious diseases tend to spread where large groups of people gather together. College campuses have reported outbreaks of meningococcal disease, caused by N. meningitidis,” reads the same website.
The CDC also notes that “vaccines that help protect meningococcal disease work well, but cannot prevent all cases.”
Late symptoms of meningitis can be serious, and even fatal. Nausea, sudden onset of fever or confusion can give way to seizures or coma in some cases.
Anyone who thinks they might have meningitis is advised to see a doctor as soon as possible.
UPDATE (Sep. 13, 2017, 10:15 a.m.) A portion of this article has been redacted due to a privacy concern.