N.H. confirms bacterial meningitis in Maine resident who died

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The state Health and Human Services Department on Thursday confirmed that a 21-year-old University of New Hampshire student had bacterial meningitis when she died.

The woman, who was from Bangor, Maine, died Wednesday at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover.

Danielle M. Thompson was home with her family for the holidays, but had gone back to UNH to visit friends before classes resumed, the Bangor Daily News reported Wednesday. Thompson, a senior, was studying speech pathology.

“While we strongly suspected bacterial meningitis in this case, this test confirms the disease,” said John Stephen, department commissioner. “This case underscores just how serious this illness can be. This has been a tragedy for the family and friends of this woman and the UNH community. I certainly hope it underscores the importance of practicing good hygiene by avoiding sharing utensils, water bottles and food.”

A department spokesman said the student had been in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the 10 days prior to being admitted to the hospital on Tuesday. To date, the department has identified 29 people excluding those from the state of Maine who should receive antibiotics. All have been contacted.

“Our investigation in this case is vigorous and continues with the help of several other states,” Stephen said. “Obviously, speed is of the essence, since the onset of symptoms from bacterial meningitis can take less than two days from the time of exposure.”

The bacteria are spread through saliva. Those who would be most at risk would be people who shared food and beverages, kissed or used the same utensils.

UNH said Wednesday that is prepared to provide appropriate education to students when they return from the holiday break on Jan. 16.

In a separate instance, a suspected case of meningitis and the death of a child from encephalitis prompted Rhode Island officials to cancel school Thursday and Friday for more than 20,000 students in three communities south of Providence, R.I.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis is an infection of the fluid of a person’s spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck and sometimes a rash. Others may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion, and sleepiness.

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