UW-River Falls

News Source

Last updated:

Nov. 11, 2002
For more information, contact: Mark Kinders, 715/425-3771


Health authorities are investigating the cause of death of a UW-River Falls student on Monday (Nov. 11).

Erik Spindler, 20, a business administration major from Stillwater, Minn., died at the River Falls Area Hospital at about 1 a.m.

Meningococcal disease is suspected as a cause of Spindler's death. Pierce County health authorities are investigating to determine if the disease was involved, with a conclusive diagnosis from laboratory tests by Wednesday.

According to UW-RF Chancellor Ann Lydecker, the University has taken precautionary steps and is directing those who have been in close contact with Spindler to seek medical treatment. Treatment is through a one-time dose of antibiotics.

According to a UW-RF investigation, Spindler began to show flu-like symptoms last week. On Sunday morning he left his residence hall to work at an off-campus location. After returning to his residence hall room later Sunday morning and complaining of illness, residence hall staff transported him to the River Falls Area Hospital.

Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria that is spread by direct, close contact with respiratory and oral secretions or by direct contact with an infected person. The American College Health Association defines direct contact as oral contact with shared items such as cigarettes or drinking glasses or through intimate contact such as kissing.

The bacteria cannot be spread through such casual contact as being in the same classroom or using the same computer, and it cannot live for more than a few minutes outside of a human host.

According to the Pierce County Public Health Department, persons who have not had direct contact do not need to be worried.

The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy, and may resemble the flu. Individuals with these symptoms should seek medical assistance at the River Falls Medical Clinic, UW-RF officials said.

UW-RF will hold an informational session for students at 6 p.m. on Monday in the basement of Hathorn Hall.

An estimated 3,000 Americans contract the disease each year. An estimated 100 to 125 college students are diagnosed each year, and five to 15 students die as a result, the ACHA reports.

For the past several years, UW-RF has conducted a meningococcal meningitis awareness campaign by providing information to parents and incoming students both through the mail, at freshmen registration and through fliers and posters on campus.

The University also conducts monthly vaccination clinics in which the meningococcal vaccine is available at a cost of $70. The vaccine is also available through the River Falls Clinic or through Pierce County. It usually takes 7-10 days to build immunity to the disease and the vaccine will not inhibit the disease in a person who is already infected.

For more information, contact the Medical Clinic at 715/425-6755 or Pierce County Public Health at 715/273-6755.

Fore more information about meningococcal disease, see Health Alert at the UW-RF Student Health Services.


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