By Steve Bagwell • Editorial Page Editor • 

Health alert issued at Linfield over possible meningitis case


A Linfield College student has been hospitalized with "signs and symptoms very consistent with meningitis," according to Yamhill County Public Health officials. Neither county nor college officials were willing to identify him, but the campus newspaper, the Linfield Review, identified him as junior Cody Oden of Salem.

Oden, who is being treated in the intensive care unit at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, is a 2013 graduate of West Salem High. An ecomomics major, he plays wide receiver on the football team.

Meningitis is a contagious and potentially fatal neurological disease that can be of either viral or bacterial origin. It is spread mostly by the exchange of saliva, either through coughing and sneezing, sharing cigarettes or vaping devices, or intimate contact, according to Tom Eversole, program manager with public health. 

Eversole said people may be at risk of catching the disease if they've been in close contact for a total of four hours with an infected person, such as studying together frequently or at length.

While awaiting a definitive diagnosis, county health officials scheduled a campus screening and antibiotic treatment clinic Wednesday. More than 400 people were screened and 275 received antibiotics, a college representative said.

A second screening and antibiotic clinic is planned Thursday.

Meanwhile, the McMinnville School District canceled a field trip that would have taken fourth-graders to campus to hear the Linfield College band.

College officials distributed a series of campuswide e-mail alerts, starting Tuesday. Eversole praised the college's quick action.

The college also has attempted to make contact individually with people known to have come into recent contact with the student through classes, social events or extracurricular activities.

Associate Dean of Students Jeff Mackay issued a statement saying, "We're waiting for more information on the nature of the illness so we will know best how to protect all of our students and community. We're working with local and state health officials, and we will provide additional information when laboratory tests are complete."

However, he also said the symptoms were consistent with meningitis, which poses a special risk in institutional settings where close contact with others is the norm. And both Oden and his mother indicated he was being treated for the disease.

Last year, seven students came down with the most common Type B bacterial form at the University of Oregon, and one of them died — an 18-year old freshman. The university responded by providing vaccinations to more than 20,000 members of its faculty and student body.

Meningitis is characterized by an inflammation of the protective membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. Between 1,000 and 2,000 cases are recorded annually in the U.S., about 10 percent of them proving fatal.

Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, rash and stiffness about the neck, and they tend to progress rapidly. In cases where the onset is sudden and severe, medical attention should be sought promptly.

Two vaccines are available for the Type B strain, one administered in two doses, the other three. Two combination vaccines protecting against four different strains are also offered. They can be administered to patients from the age of 9 months up.

Meningitis is not as contagious as the flu or common cold, but is prone to spreading in institutional settings. It is most commonly passed along through direct exchange of respiratory and personal contact, such as sharing drinks or kissing.

A hotline was set up Wednesday for members of the Linfield community. The number is 503-883-2664.

Eversoll said community members who experience concerning symptoms should contact their personal health provider or call public health at 503-434-7525.







Bill B

So, why were Portland news media reporting this a good three hours before you?


where is the update? is it meningitis or not,results were supposed to be in on friday.


Original posting on our part was delayed because we weren't willing to go with a story on an unidentified student of unidentified age, hometown and gender being treated at an unidentified hospital for an unidentified illness, provoking an unidentified response on the part of college and county officials.

When we were able to not only raise some questions, but also answer some, we posted. And I dare say we ended up with an account providing a much richer array of detail than any of our larger Portland competitors, despite the advantage they enjoy in resources.

The lab test results originally promised for Friday are now being promised by mid-week. We are tracking them and will post an update as soon as we get them.

We may or may not be the first to get the word out on that, but I'm confident we will provide the fullest account — one that doesn't just raise questions, but also answers them.

Steve Bagwell, managing editor