Princeton Expecting 24,000 at Reunion Amid Meningitis Outbreak

Princeton University is moving forward with its annual alumni reunion at the end of the month, and the New Jersey school is urging as many as 24,000 attendees to take added precautions in light of a meningitis outbreak.

The most recent case is a Princeton student who traveled to his home state and was receiving treatment in a hospital there after he was diagnosed with meningitis on May 20, according to a statement from the Ivy League school. No campus events have been canceled, Martin Mbugua, a spokesman, said in an e-mail today.

While many colleges hold reunions for classes every five years, Princeton draws thousands back annually. The May 30 to June 2 gathering includes alumni-faculty forums with prominent graduates. The school will also introduce its president-elect, Provost Christopher L. Eisgruber, a member of the class of 1983.

The university urges attendees to pay “increased attention” to personal hygienic practices during reunion events in light of the diagnoses of three students and one campus visitor over the past few months, according to a statement on a reunion website.

The first case was a student who developed symptoms of bacterial meningitis after returning to campus from spring recess in March, according to a statement from the New Jersey Department of Health. A visitor to campus was diagnosed after returning to another state in April. Another student was diagnosed on May 7.

Bacterial meningitis is generally transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as coughing, sharing drinks, kissing and being in close proximity for an extended period.

More than 4,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis each year, and the damage can be severe, with 500 dying from it annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics. Timing is critical, though, and many patients don’t realize symptoms like nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light suggest they need immediate medical attention.

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