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The undergraduate student hospitalized with meningococcal meningitis March 7 remains in critical condition but is stable and improving, University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman said yesterday.

There are no new suspected or confirmed meningococcal infection cases, she added. The student is also not believed to have connections to three students hospitalized last month with meningococcal infection, according to Student Health Service director Evelyn Wiener.

She also said no links to either Greek or athletic communities have been identified.

The University sent an e-mail notifying the Penn community of the situation at about 7 p.m. on March 7. The student's family has also been notified.

The student was infected with strain B, according to Holtzman. It is the same strain contracted by the students hospitalized last month, and is the only one of the five strains of meningococcal infection for which no known vaccine has been developed.

The vaccine protects against the four other strains, known as A, C, Y and W-153.

The hospitalized student has meningitis, an infection of the central nervous system, Wiener said.

The three Penn students were hospitalized between Feb. 12 and 13 with meningococcemia, an infection within the bloodstream caused by the same bacteria that causes meningitis.

Both meningitis and meningococcemia can produce severe infection throughout the body, are treated identically and are equally contagious.

An additional two students were hospitalized on Feb. 15 with flu-like symptoms but were never confirmed to have meningococcal infection.

The students who became ill during the February outbreak had common contact through the Greek system, according to University officials.

Other colleges also alerted their fencing teams to the situation, and they advised those students to seek preventative treatment, though Penn has refused to confirm that members of the fencing team were affected.

In last month's cases, SHS preventively treated about 3,000 students with Ciprofloxacin, but University and Philadelphia health officials do not believe widespread distribution of preventative medicine is necessary in the current situation.

Close contacts of the student believed to need preventative treatment - a number Wiener estimated to be about 10 to 20 - have been notified.

"Just about all of them" have received treatment, Wiener said, adding that SHS has been "pretty aggressively" examining the student's close contacts.

Those who have had casual contact - such as living in the same dormitory, eating in the same dining hall or attending classes - with the infected student are not at risk for infection and treatment is not recommended for these individuals.

Common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include fever, severe headache, sensitivity to bright light, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy. Anyone experiencing these should seek medical attention immediately.

Anne Ryan, a College sophomore, died from meningitis in September 2007. Her family has sued the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, alleging that she was mistreated, and the case is still pending.

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