UW-River Falls

News Source

Last updated:

Nov. 12, 2002
For more information, contact: Mark Kinders, 715/425-3771


Cause of UW-RF Student's Death Confirmed

An investigation into the death of a UW-River Falls student has confirmed that he succumbed to meningococcal disease. According to Pierce County Public Health Department Administrator Donna Moraska, laboratory tests completed Tuesday (Nov. 12) at the River Falls Area Hospital confirmed the disease as the cause of death of Erik Spindler on Monday.

Spindler, 20, a business administration major from Stillwater, Minn., died at the River Falls Area Hospital at about 1 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 11. He was taken to the hospital about 11 a.m. on Sunday by residence hall staff after he complained of illness.

According to Moraska, testing will continue at the Wisconsin State Laboratory in Madison, which should determine by Friday the strain of meningococcal meningitis that was involved.

On Monday evening some 250 students participated in an information session conducted by UW-RF Student Health Services and the Pierce County Health Department. Students were provided information about the disease and its transmission. In a subsequent screening session, individuals who were in close contact with Spindler were sent to the River Falls Medical Clinic for antibiotics. Some 20 students or staff had received the antibiotics as of Wednesday afternoon. Treatment is through a one-time dose of antibiotics.

Chancellor Ann Lydecker said the University responded quickly to the potential meningococcal threat after it was suspected in Spindler's death. "We sought to ensure that anyone who might fear that they were exposed to the disease knew how to get treatment. We also wanted to quickly educate everyone on campus about the risk factor to them. I think we accomplished these objectives," Lydecker said.

Dean of Students Roger Ballou praised Moraska and her staff for their assistance to UW-RF in addressing the disease.

Meanwhile, UW-RF and Pierce County Public Health has set an immunization clinic and information session for 9 a.m. until noon on Friday, Nov. 15, in the Presidents Room of the Hagestad Student Center. The information session is open to the public. The cost of the inoculation is $70.

UW-RF officials encourage those faculty and staff whose insurance coverage includes the immunization fee to seek the vaccine from a private physician or clinic to ensure students who are seeking the immunization are able to receive it.

According to UW-RF officials, it takes up to 10 days to build immunity against meningococcal disease and it will not combat the current incident. Also, the immunization does not provide protection against all strains of meningococcal disease.

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.

For the past several years, UW-RF has joined with the national efforts of the ACHA to conduct a meningococcal meningitis awareness campaign. The University provides information to parents and incoming students both through the mail and at new student registration in the summer. Awareness fliers and posters are also distributed on campus.

The University conducts monthly vaccination clinics in which the meningococcal vaccine is available at a cost of $70. The vaccine will be offered during a regularly scheduled vaccination clinic set for Wednesday, Nov, 27, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Kinnickinnic Room of the Student Center.

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

For more information about meningococcal disease, visit the Health Alert web page at the UW-RF Student Health Services office: http://www.uwrf.edu/student-health-service/health_alert.html



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