Rare Meningitis B Strain Killed Drexel Student

By NBC10.Com Staff
|  Thursday, Mar 13, 2014  |  Updated 8:34 PM EDT
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Health concerns are growing in connection to the death of a Drexel University student. NBC10's Denise Nakano has the details.

NBC10.com - Denise Nakano

Health concerns are growing in connection to the death of a Drexel University student. NBC10's Denise Nakano has the details.

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Tests confirm a rare meningitis strain that hit Princeton University in 2013 caused the death of a Drexel University student Monday.

Stephanie Ross, a mechanical engineering major, died at the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center after her sorority sisters found her unresponsive at the Phi Mu (Beta Tau) house along Powelton Avenue, according to an official statement from Drexel.

Officials initially suspected Ross had been infected with the "serogroup B" strain of meningitis and test results from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Thursday confirmed the rare form was the culprit.

The Medical Examiner's office told NBC10 Wednesday that Ross died from bacterial meningitis, but it was not clear at the time if it was the same strain that affected the Princeton community.

"Regardless of serogroup, the recommended course of action remains the same," Drexel University said in a statement. "The University and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health are continuing to identify those who may have had contact with the infected students to provide them with prophylactic antibiotics as well as educate students of precautions they can take to protect themselves against the infection."

Meningitis symptoms are similar to flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity. Other symptoms like confusion and a stiff neck could also be a sign of meningitis.

Members of Ross' sorority say she attended a regional officer training conference on March 1 and came into contact with several sorority sisters, including some from outside of our area.

The university offered prophylactic antibiotics at the student health center on Market Street for any students who were in close contact with Ross.

Any students feeling meningitis-like symptoms are asked to contact the Student Health Center at 215-220-4700.

Most colleges, including Drexel, require meningitis vaccinations for students. But the rare "serogroup B" that hit Princeton is not covered by American vaccines.

After eight meningitis B infections at Princeton, officials brought in a European version of the vaccine.

The same day as Ross' post-mortem diagnosis, NBC10.com learned an 8-year-old from Montgomery County, Pa. has been hospitalized meningococcal infection, the bacteria which can lead to meningitis.

A 3rd grade student at Skippack Elementary School, officials said the child's infection has prompted them to disinfect the entire 775 student school in Collegeville, Pa. They're also working with county health officials to identify students and staff who may have come in close contact with the 8-year-old.

Ross' death hit Drexel's Greek Life community hard. An email announcing her death was first shared through a Greek Life email chain shortly after 11 p.m. Monday.

Ross' sorority big sister Kris Trina turned to Facebook to remember her friend.

"I don't have any words to describe what I am feeling right now, but know that I love you and I hope that you are in heaven filled with cats and all of the other weird things that we love."

Ross graduated from Upper St. Clair High School outside Pittsburgh where she played softball.

Drexel student Stephanie Ross died March 10 from what is believed to be meningitis.

Pictured: Stephanie Ross

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