Student's Death From Sepsis Could Link To Hockey Cases
CSU Sends E-Mail To Clarify Meningitis Vs. Sepsis
Last Updated: 946 days ago
Colorado State University students are getting a crash course on meningococcal disease and the difference between meningitis and sepsis.Students were informed by the university on Wednesday that one student had died from meningitis and that another was being treated in the hospital for what may be meningitis. That student who died did not have meningitis.The Larimer County Health Department confirmed with 7NEWS that CSU sophomore Christina Adame, 23, died suddenly Wednesday morning from sepsis, not meningitis. Both are forms of meningococcal bacteria."Sometimes it causes meningitis, sometimes it causes a blood infection: sepsis. And what killed this young CSU student was the bacterial infection of her blood, or sepsis," said Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, Larimer County Health Department director.Sepsis is a blood infection, whereas meningitis attacks the brain."It's treated exactly the same; prevention, follow with contacts, it's exactly the same," said LeBailly. "It's real common for the lay public to hear meningococcal disease and immediately think meningitis."LeBailly said even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can cause confusion in understanding the difference between the two."If you go to visit the CDC website and try to look up meningococcal disease, you get information about meningitis; that's very confusing," said LeBailly."By saying it's meningitis, that freaks a lot of people out. But then even saying it's sepsis, sepsis is still a pretty scary word as well," said CSU senior Mackenzie Potter.The school sent out an e-mail to students Thursday, updating them with medical information about sepsis, meningitis and the two incidents on campus."In the e-mail it goes into more depth of what kind of strain that she might have had," said Jennifer Caldwell, a CSU junior. "We were originally alerted by community health officials that it was suspected Christina had died of bacterial meningitis. While earlier reports from Larimer County health officials indicated suspected meningococcal meningitis, which, in medical terms is welling of the brain and spinal cord, the Larimer County Health Department is now indicating she may have died of meningococcal sepsis, which is caused by the same meningococcal bacteria but infects the blood rather than the brain." "I think everyone's really getting informed about what's going on," said Caldwell. "The fact that it can only take 12 hours to kill you, I think that's the scary part of this."The e-mail also updated the condition of 19-year-old freshman Zach Ratzlaff. He is still in the hospital, but out of the intensive care unit, with what appears to be meningitis symptoms, but may not be a form of meningococcal disease, according to the Health Department. Ratzlaff is still being treated as though he has meningococcal disease, even though it's not yet known what is causing his illness."There's been precautions going around. People are putting on their mirrors in the dorm rooms, 'Watch out for diseases, wash hands,'" said CSU freshman Cameron Tafoya.Tafoya lives in the Corbett Hall, the same dorm as Ratzlaff. Student told 7NEWS cleaning crews have spent extra time at the dorm in the past two days."It always is a little bit concerning when you know something like this is going on, on campus, and it could potentially spread to other people," said Caldwell.What the e-mail didn't reference is that the Health Department cannot yet rule out a connection to the meningococcal bacteria deaths stemming from a hockey game in June. Three hockey players have died in the past four months from sepsis.7NEWS asked the Health Department if it would be unusual for Adame's case of meningococcal bacteria to be related to the hockey cases."I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't related, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was related," said LeBailly.7NEWS found out from the Health Department that a person can pass the bacteria to another person, who can carry the bacteria for weeks and never show signs of illness. That second person could then pass the bacteria to someone else, who may also never show signs. This process can continue until the bacterium infects a person whose body can't handle it and shows signs of disease."It seems like every time it happens, it comes out of nowhere," said Potter. "It's pretty intense that it could be the same cause of death that happened over the summer."The Health Department won't know until early next week what type of meningococcal bacteria resulted in Adame's death. If it turns out to be serogroup C, more tests will need to be done to see if it matches the serogroup C strain that killed the three hockey players, according to the Health Department. If tests reveal the strain to be serogroup B, that means it's the one strain of meningococcal bacteria that can't be vaccinated against.Adame received a meningococcal vaccination in 2006. Ratzlaff received one in 2007.