UM student dies in sorority house Meningitis suspected. Students close to victim urged to take antibiotics.

April 09, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki and Lou Ferrara Joe Nawrozki is a staff writer and Lou Ferrara is a contributing writer from College Park.

COLLEGE PARK -- While police today attempted to determine the exact cause of death of a 21-year-old senior found in her sorority house bedroom yesterday, University of Maryland and county health officials today were distributing antibiotics to prevent a potential outbreak of spinal meningitis.

The body of Jennifer Lynn Jones, 21, of Merritt Island, Fla., was discovered about 6 p.m. in her room at the Delta Delta Delta house in the 4600 block of College Ave., just east of the campus, said Prince George's County Police Capt. James White.

Ms. Jones was a marketing major and had transferred to Maryland from Michigan State University.

"She was found . . . in her bed," Captain White said. "We don't have any indication that it's foul play or that it's a suicide."

The body was taken to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore. A spokesman there said results of the autopsy wouldn't be ready until Monday, after extensive laboratory tests.

A preliminary investigation by assistant state medical examiner Paul DeVore showed that the cause of death probably was spinal meningitis. That disease is caused by either a viral or bacterial infection that works its way to the spinal cord and brain.

Symptoms develop two to 10 days after exposure. They include high fever, severe headache and nausea. The bacterial variety can be treated with antibiotics while the viral strain does not respond to antibiotic therapy.

A story published today in the UM student newspaper, The Diamondback, said Ms. Jones had been treated at the campus health center and was prescribed a medication.

Dr. Doris Makarai, a physician at the health center, said today no one matching Ms. Jones' description sought treatment there during the past week. However, she said, officials were making a "more thorough check" to see if the senior had been treated on campus.

Margaret Bridwell, health center director, said early indications show Ms. Jones probably had contracted the bacterial strain of meningitis because of other symptoms she had, including a skin rash.

Ms. Bridwell said any student who had intimate contact with the victim should begin taking an antibiotic called Rifampin. The drug was available at the center, she said.

The germ can be passed through sharing food and drink, kissing or through airborne-dispersed germs discharged through coughing or sneezing.

Officials said the victim's boyfriend, who was not identified, has been started on medication and all residents of the sorority house were to meet with county medical officers this morning and probably most would be placed on the medication.

Officials distributed antibiotics to students up to 12:30 a.m. today. Prince George's County health officials resumed at 10 a.m.

The death occurred in the middle of Greek week, which is marked with parties and other festivities.

Four independent sources said Ms. Jones did not participate in her sorority's celebration the night before she was found dead. On Tuesday, she went to bed about 10 p.m., according to those sources.

"All the girls here are outstanding and she was definitely one of them," said Linda Gribben, the sorority's house mother, of Ms. Jones.

Delta Delta Delta members would not comment today.

Many in-state members of the sorority went to their parents' homes after news of the death.

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