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Eighth Princeton student diagnosed with meningitis

People walk around the Princeton University campus in New Jersey, November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People walk around the Princeton University campus in New Jersey, November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An eighth Princeton University student has been diagnosed with meningitis, a potentially fatal infection that causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord, a university spokesman said on Friday.

Health officials will conduct tests to determine whether the latest case is related to the previous seven that have been identified since March. Officials at the New Jersey school could not provide the current health status of the student.

The latest case comes shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the university to use an imported vaccine to help control the disease's spread.

The past cases at the Ivy League school were caused by the meningococcal bacteria known as serogroup B. State law requires all Princeton students living in dormitories to receive a meningitis vaccine that protects against most strains but not the serogroup B variety, Princeton spokesman Martin Mbugua said in an email.

The outbreak of serogroup B meningitis is rare but not the first of its kind in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bexsero, made by Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG, will be provided to all undergraduate students, graduate students who live in university housing on or off campus, and students and faculty with certain illnesses, such as sickle cell disease, Princeton officials said earlier this week.

The FDA has allowed the use of the vaccine at Princeton under an Investigational New Drug application. The federal CDC considers the drug to be safe.

"Everyone involved is working hard to organize a potential serogroup B meningococcal disease vaccine campaign as quickly as possible that fits into Princeton University's academic calendar," said CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins.

The Princeton inoculation campaign is set to be voluntary for students and is expected to begin in early December, with another event in February, according to the school's website.

Federal and New Jersey state health officials have not advised visitors or students to avoid the campus, Mbugua said.

Meningitis is a serious disease that is spread through coughing and exchanges of saliva, and people living in dormitories or other crowded living quarters are especially at risk.

The most severe cases can result in death, hearing loss, brain damage, kidney disease or amputation of limbs.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and stiff neck.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; editing by Edith Honan and Matthew Lewis)

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