University of  Sussex MEDIA RELEASE

The Information Office, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RH.

For immediate release: Tuesday 18 November 1997


Joint statement from the University of Sussex and
East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority

Extensive tests to establish the cause of death of a 20-year old University of Sussex student last week (l3 November) have failed to produce a positive diagnosis. No further tests are possible. However, although unproven, the most likely cause is considered to be meningococcal disease and close contacts of the student who died have already received antibiotics.

The University is continuing to monitor the situation in close liaison with public health experts. According to Professor Gordon Conway, the University Vice-Chancellor, "We are following national guidelines and will continue to keep the situation under review. We are putting emphasis on an education information programme for students and have set up a University helpline for advice and information for staff, students and their parents."

Dr Angela Iversen, consultant in communicable disease control for the health authority said, "there has been one unconfirmed case of meningococcal disease at the university where, sadly, the student died. The incubation period is very short - usually about three days - so the risk of another case occurring is small, although it cannot be completely ruled out.

"Vaccination is only available for one type of the disease and is not l00 per cent effective. The important thing is for students to remain vigilant, to be aware of the symptoms and keep a close eye on anyone who is unwell. They should seek advice from the University health centre if there is any concern."

The University set up a helpline on the day that news of the death was received. According to Dr. Iversen the helpline has been very well received and she thanked the staff and students of the University who have been taking calls.

The helpline will continue at least until Friday 2l November. The number is 01273 678815. Students can also contact the National Meningitis 24-hour support line on 0345 538118 and the Health Information service, freephone 0800 665544, which has a taped message on meningitis.

For further information please contact Sue Yates, Information Officer,
University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888

Madeleine Mayhew or Andrew Partington
East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Health Authority
Tel. 01273 403550

Note to news editors: The symptoms of meningoccal meningitus are: vomiting, high temperature/fever; stiff neck; dislike of bright lights; drowsiness/lethargy; joint pains; rash - tiny blood spots or bruising under the skin which can appear anywhere on the body and do not turn white when pressed.

The Information Office ~ 18th November 1997