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Confirmed Case of Meningococcemia in Off-Campus Appalachian State University Student

On Sept. 8, 2018, Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare) and Appalachian State University confirmed one case of meningococcemia in an Appalachian State University student who lives off campus.

Meningococcemia is a bloodstream infection caused by bacteria that can also cause meningitis.

The individual diagnosed with the disease does not have meningitis.

The individual diagnosed with the infection is being treated, and actions are in effect to minimize contact with this person, per guidelines established by the State of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control.

Appalachian State University, AppHealthCare and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are working together to investigate this case and prevent the spread of meningococcemia.

Meningococcemia is spread through close contact like kissing, sharing utensils with or drinking after an infected person.

Individuals who have been identified as being at possible risk are being identified and contacted directly by Appalachian State University and AppHealthCare.

In order to assist in continuing to identify anyone who may have come in contact with the infected person the North Carolina Division of Public Health is asking members of the public who patronized three Boone establishments to contact AppHealthCare’s on call nurse at 828-264-4995 extension 8 for prophylactic treatment.

The dates, times and locations are:

  • Boone Saloon on Aug. 22 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.
  • The Local on Aug. 23 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.
  • Café Portofino on Aug. 25 between the hours of 11p.m. – 2 a.m.

Anyone who visited local establishments on the following dates and times and shared eating utensils, food, drink, or kissed someone you do not usually have contact with should contact AppHealthCare for prophylactic treatment.

Close contacts of someone with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to help prevent them from getting the disease. This is known as prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis).

“We want to increase awareness of individuals who may have come in close contact with the one case currently identified for meningococcal disease. We take this very seriously and are taking extra precaution to locate individuals who may not have received the additional communication shared in partnership with Appalachian State University. It is important for the community to know that these locations are named only for the reason of narrowing our efforts to identify those at risk. They are not named due to any action or inaction on their part or identified ongoing public health risk with frequenting their establishment,” said AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene.

Dr. Taylor Rushing, director of Appalachian State University’s Student Health Service stated, “We want to reassure our campus and community that the student diagnosed with the infection is fully cooperating with instructions to help reduce the spread of the infection. Through our close partnership with AppHealthCare and the North Carolina Division of Public Health, we are taking every measure to investigate this case and prevent the spread of the infection.”

Members of the community are encouraged to promptly report suspected meningococcemia symptoms to their primary care physicians, urgent care or emergency department.

More information about meningococcemia may be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and below.

Signs and Symptoms:

Persons should seek medical attention immediately at the Emergency Room if they develop symptoms of meningococcal disease. Symptoms of meningococcal disease can first appear as a flu-like illness and rapidly worsen. The two most common types of meningococcal infections are meningitis and septicemia. Both of these types of infections are very serious and can be deadly in a matter of hours.

Doctors call meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis meningococcal meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the bacteria infect the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord and cause swelling.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck.

There are often additional symptoms, which include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)


Keeping up-to-date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. It is required for all Appalachian State University students unless the student has claimed an exemption such as religious beliefs. Those who would like to receive the immunization, may request it from the AppHealthCare office located at 126 Poplar Grove Connector in Boone (Student Health Services for Appalachian State students). Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick, also helps.


Vaccines help protect against all three serogroups (B, C, and Y) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria commonly seen in the United States. Like with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means there is still a chance someone can develop meningococcal disease after vaccination. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal disease since early recognition and quick medical attention are extremely important.

Although rare, people can get meningococcal disease more than once. A previous infection will not offer lifelong protection from future infections. Therefore, CDC recommends meningococcal vaccines for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, children and adults should also get meningococcal vaccines.

Antibiotics (prophylaxis):

Close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. This is known as prophylaxis (pro-fuh-lak-sis). Examples of close contacts include:

  • People in the same household or roommates
  • Anyone with direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions (saliva or spit), such as a boyfriend or girlfriend

Doctors or local health departments make recommendations about who should get prophylaxis.

If you are not feeling well, or if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please take steps to limit your contact with others. If you are concerned about possible symptoms, visit your primary health care provider, urgent care or emergency department.

 For questions regarding symptoms you might be experiencing, Appalachian State University students can contact Student Health Services at 828-262-3100. AppHealthCare’s nurse on call is available 24/7 for faculty, staff or anyone with questions or concerns at 828-264-4995 extension 8.

 “Appalachian State University, AppHealthCare (Appalachian District Health Department) and the North Carolina Division of Public Health are working together to share information and take action as appropriate, and will continue communications with the public as needed if we learn of any additional measures we should take to prevent additional cases of to prevent additional cases of meningococcal disease in our community,” said Greene.