Local Resident Who Had Been UMass Amherst Student Dies of Presumed Bacterial Meningitis

AMHERST, Mass. - Todd Hendsbee, of Main Street, Amherst, a former student at the University of Massachusetts who withdrew in November, died early Tuesday morning Feb. 25 at the UMass Medical Center, Worcester, with a diagnosis of presumed bacterial meningitis. Laboratory results are expected later today.

He had been seen at University Health Services (UHS) Feb. 24, transferred to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, and then to the UMass Medical Center in Worcester.

Close acquaintances and co-workers have been contacted by UHS and, where appropriate, received preventive doses of the antibiotic ciproflaxacin, according to UHS public health nurse Anne J. Lardner.

Lardner says: "Please reassure the community that there is no cause for panic. The people who needed to be contacted were contacted by health services and have been treated appropriately."

Lardner says the disease is spread through respiratory droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person through close contact, such as kissing, sneezing, coughing, sharing eating/drinking utensils, and sharing cigarettes. She emphasized that the bacteria cannot usually live for more than a few minutes outside the body and, as a result, they are not easily transmitted by routine contact with an infected person in a classroom, dining room, bar, restroom, etc. The incubation period is about two weeks.

Early symptoms of meningitis include fever, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, and severe sudden headaches often with mental confusion.

Anyone with questions about the disease should call either the UHS triage nurse at 413/577-5229 or their own private health providers.