Student with meningitis listed as `critically ill'

Towson native, 27, is in 3rd year at UMB

has been put on respirator

January 07, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

A third-year medical student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore has been stricken with bacterial meningitis, university staff announced yesterday.

Christopher Taylor, 27, of Towson, was transported by ambulance late Thursday to Maryland General Hospital after complaining of symptoms associated with the potentially deadly disease. He was moved to University of Maryland Medical Center last night, where he was in critical condition.

Dr. Richard Colgan, director of student and employee health at the university, described Taylor as "critically ill" and said his condition worsened after he was hospitalized.

Taylor, a graduate of Severna Park High School and Morgan State University, was placed in intensive care Friday afternoon. By yesterday afternoon, he had been put on a respirator, Colgan said.

University staff and city health officials are trying to determine where Taylor was during the 10 days before the onset of his illness, to reach individuals who might have had close contact with him.

Bacterial meningitis is spread through contact with oral secretions of an infected individual through kissing or sharing a drink, cigarette or eating utensil. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy. Officials said those who suspect they might have had such contact with Taylor should see a doctor.

Taylor's fiancee and parents, more than a half-dozen university staff members, a few classmates and a few patients he treated on his gynecology oncology rotation at the University of Maryland Medical Center had received the preventive antibiotic ciprofloxacin as of yesterday, school officials said.

Students, who returned from holiday break Tuesday, were contacted by e-mail about Taylor's illness, and a notice was posted on the university's Web site. The approximately 20 students and faculty with whom Taylor attended classes last week were notified.

Fellow third-year medical student Andrea Krumholtz said news of Taylor's plight surprised his classmates, who were worried when he was not present for his rounds at the hospital Friday.

"It really upset all of us," she said, adding that the incident reminded the aspiring doctors how "your personal health can affect so many different people."

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner, said 10 to 20 cases of bacterial meningitis are reported in the city each year, mostly among 18- to 25-year-olds. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of those cases are fatal. The cases are mostly isolated incidents, he said.

Last year, a Towson University student died after becoming infected with the disease. A month later, the state legislature approved a bill requiring Maryland college students in on-campus dormitories to be vaccinated against the disease or sign a waiver.

University of Maryland, Baltimore officials said they believed that Taylor, who lives off-campus with his fiancee, is the first student at the university to be infected with the disease. The university's health center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today to provide medication for concerned students or faculty. The center can be reached at 410-328-6645.

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