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Meningococcemia scare hits UP Diliman infirmary

Meningococcemia was not the cause of death of a patient who was taken last week to the University Health Service (UHS) on the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan told the Inquirer on Sunday that according to the UHS, the patient — who had displayed signs of septic shock consistent with the infectious disease — did not die of meningococcemia.

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Operations at the public health unit were also now back to normal.

The UHS emergency room (ER) was temporarily closed to “allow for at least 48 hours of UV light disinfection,” the infirmary’s acting director, Jesusa Catabui, advised the university community on Friday.

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But services outside the ER, such as consultations, proceeded as usual at the UHS—a key fixture on the UP campus that offered an array of free and discounted services to students, faculty and employees, and staff dependents.

Even before an official diagnosis was rendered, Catabui took pains to play down assumptions that the patient’s death on Thursday had been due to meningococcemia.

“The mentioned illness is not the main consideration of the attending doctors,” Catabui said in an advisory. “However, the apparent signs of septic shock and the rapid deterioration of the patient may lead us to consider the possibility of meningococcemia.”

The Quezon City Health Office authorized the UHS to release the body to relatives, and took charge of tracing the people the patient had come into contact with.

“Moreover, appropriate prophylactic medications have been given to the hospital staff who directly participated in the resuscitative measures done to the patient,” Catabui said.

40-percent fatality rate

The UHS advisory said that meningococcemia was fatal in 40 percent of overall cases, even when antibiotics and intensive monitoring were administered right away.

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The disease can be passed only through direct contact with an infected patient, which includes coughing, sneezing and the sharing of food and utensils. The bacteria that causes it dies quickly outside the body, meaning the infection cannot be carried on clothes, beds or other materials.

To mitigate the spread of the disease, the UHS advised the public to frequently wash their hands with soap and observe “respiratory etiquette,” such as covering the mouth when coughing. It added that meningococcemia could also be prevented with a vaccine.

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TAGS: meningococcemia scare, University Health Service, UP Diliman infirmary
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