USF Mourns Loss of Student

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Students, faculty, and staff at the University of South Florida's Tampa campus are mourning the death of a female student from a suspected case of bacterial meningitis. Officials at USF were notified late this morning that 19-year old Rachel Futterman had passed away. Since doctors first suspected the disease on Saturday, students who may have had direct contact with the victim have been identified, located, and treated with a strong antibiotic, Cipro. In addition, a shipment of the vaccine is available for long-term protection of students who have not been vaccinated.

A memorial service will be held at 6:00 p.m. tonight at the Martin Luther King Plaza, behind the administration building on the Tampa campus.

"'Rachel was our student and part of our family,"' said Judy Genshaft, president of USF. "'It has been an emotional weekend, and our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends. We'll do everything we can to provide counseling and support services to those who need them."'

Ms. Futterman was living in a sorority house on campus, and according to her friends, was not feeling well on Friday. Sorority sisters took care of her throughout the day. On Saturday morning they became alarmed and rushed her to the hospital, where doctors made the diagnosis of possible bacterial meningitis late in the morning. By evening, USF and Hillsborough County health officials had identified and treated most of the students who possibly had direct contact with Ms. Futterman during the time she was likely to be contagious--about 24 hours before the appearance of symptoms.

Bacterial meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal infection, and it is not easy to transmit. It can be transmitted through a droplet from sneezing or coughing that comes in direct contact with another person, but it is mostly spread through intimate contact such as sharing cigarettes and drinking glasses, or kissing. There must be contact with bodily fluids such as saliva. The bacteria dies very quickly on surfaces outside the body. You would not be considered in danger just by being in the same room as someone who is contagious--there would have to be direct contact. For this reason, students in Ms. Futterman's classes are not believed to be in danger of developing the disease.

Any students, faculty, or staff who have questions or concerns may call the USF Student Health Center at (813) 974-2331.

Anyone who believes they may have been in contact with the student and begins experiencing symptoms similar to those described above should contact their physician immediately for antibiotic preventive treatment.

Details are not complete for any memorial services.

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