N.H. health department says dozens had contact with meningitis victim


CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Health officials say dozens of people in several states are at risk from meningitis after contact with a University of New Hampshire student who died of the illness this week.

Danielle Thompson,21, of Bangor, Maine, died of bacterial meningitis on Wednesday.

Officials said Thompson had been in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the 10 days before being admitted to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, where she died.

Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen said the state has identified 29 people in New Hampshire and 55 in Maine who should receive antibiotics.

Workers at the hospital already have been treated.

Officials still are trying to figure out how many people Thompson visited in Massachusetts. Stephen said no one else has shown any symptoms. Those who would be most at risk would be people who shared food and beverages, kissed or used the same utensils.

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.

“This case underscores just how serious this illness can be,” Stephen said. “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.”

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