A NorthWest Arkansas Community College student from Fayetteville died Nov. 18 from meningococcal meningitis, a form of bacterial meningitis.
Conner Burchfield, 18, died at a hospital in Springfield, Mo. Burchfield’s parents were present at the student’s death, according to The City Wire’s content partner KFSM.
NWACC officials were contacted by the Benton and Washington county health departments about the student. School officials are in the process of identifying and contacting those individuals who may have come into close contact with the student.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the student, his family, and friends during this difficult time,” said Steven Gates, senior vice president for learning and provost.
As a matter of prevention and cooperation, all students, faculty, and staff members were notified this afternoon and were asked to take precautionary measures and to seek medical attention if they are experiencing serious flu-like symptoms, which are defined by the Arkansas Department of Health as “fever, intense headache, irritability or listlessness, vomiting and rash.”
Bacterial meningitis can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in half of all cases if left untreated, according to the World Health Organization. The most common symptoms involve a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Even if the disease is caught early, it can cause death within 48 hours for 5 to 10% of those infected.
The illness can be transmitted from person-to-person through kissing, sneezing, coughing, sharing the same utensils or being in the same close quarters with someone infected, the WHO states.
Treatment usually involves antibiotics and a lumbar puncture, the World Health Organization states.
College officials are in the process of disinfecting high-traffic areas and those known to have been visited by the student.