Hopkins graduate student has meningitis, doctors confirm

May 10, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Doctors at Union Memorial Hospital confirmed yesterday that a Johns Hopkins graduate student has contracted bacterial meningitis, the contagious form of that potentially fatal infection of the brain lining and spinal cord.

Marcus Dale Weicker, 25, of Oregon remained in critical condition in Union Memorial's intensive care unit.

Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the school's health services clinic at the Homewood campus is treating students who had direct contact with Weicker.

The city health commissioner, Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, said 23 Hopkins students and 13 members of the Union Memorial staff have been given prophylactic antibiotics.

"We are looking into possible contacts outside of the school and hospital," said Beilenson, who added that the specific strain of meningitis has not been identified.

Many of the students who sought treatment attended an end-of-semester party Saturday at the house of a professor in the Institute for Policy Studies, where Weicker is one of 23 students finishing the first year of a two-year master's degree program.

"By all accounts, he enjoyed himself at the party and was fine Sunday morning. This came on very suddenly," said Sandra J. Newman, director of the institute. "He is an excellent student in our program and a wonderful young man."

Weicker was taken to Union Memorial Monday morning by Hopkins security after he called the health center and described his symptoms, which included vomiting blood. Hopkins officials sent an e-mail Monday morning informing students and staff members of the suspected meningitis case.

According to the e-mail, Weicker does not live in campus housing and has no teaching duties. He is enrolled in four classes at Homewood and one at the School of Public Health in East Baltimore.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include headache, stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting. Severe cases can lead to convulsions and delirium. It is passed through close contact such as kissing or sharing a glass or eating utensil.

O'Shea said about 1,000 of the 5,000 students at Homewood took advantage of a meningitis vaccination program offered by the school last fall.

The General Assembly passed a bill this year requiring Maryland college students to be vaccinated against meningitis or to sign a waiver stating that they understand the risks of contracting the disease, which has killed several students at Maryland schools in the past few years.

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