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Seventh possible meningitis case reported at Princeton University

New Jersey health officials have declared an outbreak of meningitis after a possible seventh meningitis case has been reported at Princeton University since March.

The New Jersey Department of Health received a report Sunday of a male student who developed symptoms of meningococcal disease on Nov. 9 before he was hospitalized. The first case was reported March 22 in a female student who was away from campus on spring recess when she developed symptoms. She has since recovered.

A spokesperson for Princeton University told in an email that state law requires all students living campus to get a meningitis vaccine. But, the vaccine does not protect fully against the B strain of the infection, which all six students have been diagnosed with.

The other reported cases were in a visitor to Princeton in April who was diagnosed with the infection after they returned to another state, two males infected in May who have since recovered, a male infected in June while traveling abroad who has since fully recovered, and a female who developed symptoms in October. She is still recovering.

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"Given that we have 6 individuals diagnosed with Neisseria meningitidis serogroup (type) B in a short period of time, in an abundance of caution, we are considering this an outbreak," state health officials said in a press release.

Meningococcal diseases are infections caused by Neisseria meningitides bacteria. Bacteria are spread though respiratory and throat secretions, such as through kissing or living in close quarters like dorm rooms.

If contracted a person may develop meningitis, a severe swelling of the tissue that lines the brain and spinal cord, also known as the meninges. Symptoms include a sudden fever, headache and stiff neck, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, increased light sensitivity and confusion.

The infection can spread to the bloodstream, damaging blood vessels and causing bleeding into the skin and organs.

Death can occur in as little as a few hours without treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other cases can result in permanent disabilities from amputations and skin grafts.

State investigators are working with the CDC to monitor the situation. At this time, classes or activities are not recommended to be canceled as means of outbreak control.

The university is encouraging students to pay increased attention to personal hygienic practices, including always coughing into a sleeve or tissue, washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer often. Not sharing drinks, smoking materials, and eating utensils may also reduce risk.

The CDC has more information on meningococcal disease.

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