This Week in Villanova History: January 23, 1998

After being treated for a rare form of bacterial meningitis called meningococcal meningitis, freshman Bradley Weisgerber was released from Bryn Mawr Hospital on Monday.

Weisgerber, a Commerce and Finance major from Warwick, Rhode Island, showed early symptoms of meningitis, which include fever, intense headache, vomiting, and lethargy last week. As his symptoms intensified, he went into the hospital last Wednesday, according to the Rev. John P. Stack, O.S.A., dean of Students.

Even though doctors suspected the cause of his illness, early tests failed to confirm the diagnosis. He began treatment for meningitis anyway, and cultures eventually proved that he was suffering from bacterial meningitis.

Because the bacteria that causes meningitis is spread through water droplets, the only way to contract the disease is through extended personal contact with an infected individual, according to Dr. Susan Sandler, the University’s director of Student Health.

As a precaution, the Health Center made available an antibiotic called Cipro which acts as a prophylactic to counteract the bacterial infection to anyone who had contact with Weisgerber. According to Stack, several students took the pill, and no additional cases of meningitis have been reported.

Though Weisgerber first showed symptoms of the illness while at the University, it is unlikely that he contracted the disease while at school. “The incubation period for bacterial meningitis is ten to 14 days,” said Sandler. “The chances are that someone who presented the case to the health center during the first week back from break did not get it here.”

Meningitis infections can be either bacterial or viral, and different strains of the disease affect the body in separate ways. Most strains are fast-acting, producing a distinct change in the patient’s health, according to Mrs. Kenney, R.N., head nurse at the Health Center.

Bacterial meningitis such as Weisgerber suffered is “uniformly fatal if untreated,” said Dr. Sandler. However, if the infection is caught in time, the chances of recovery improve greatly with intravenous antibiotics.

“The nurses at the Health Center are particularly astute. They can identify and evaluate such problems and get the care that is necessary in a quick fashion,” said Sandler.

Such fast action on the part of medical officials both at the Health Center and at Bryn Mawr Hospital may have saved Weisgerber’s life. “Brad is continuing to recover and plans to return to classes sometime later in the semester,” said Stack.

A similar case of meningitis occurred at the University in the fall of 1995 in which the student died shortly after contracting the infection.