Thursday, 4:30 PM
Bentley students take antibiotics after bacterial meningitis death
By Tania deLuzuriaga and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
WALTHAM -- Some 30 students at Bentley College have been given precautionary antibiotics after a first-year student died over the weekend from bacterial meningitis in New York.
School officials said today at a press conference that they have found as many as 50 students who may have had contact with Erin Ortiz, 18, who died while visiting her family in New Hampton, N.Y.
"We are working day and night to identify students who may have had contact with her," said Gerri Taylor, director of Bentley Student Health Services. "It's a health service's worst nightmare. It's a college's worst nightmare."
No additional cases have been reported. Bacterial meningitis is passed through close contact, including kissing and sharing food. Bentley officials are encouraging anyone with symptoms to seek medical attention. Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion, and sleepiness.
Ortiz's father urged his daughter's fellow students not to ignore symptoms, said Bentley vice president Kathleen Yorkis. "He felt that in her desire to be an active college student Erin may not have paid enough attention to the signals her body was sending her," Yorkis said.
Ortiz has always dreamed of going to Bentley, a business college in suburban Boston, and was in the investment club, which invested the school's money.
The college had a four-day weekend for fall break and Ortiz took the train home to New York, according to Yorkis, who spoke to her father. She told her family she felt as if she was getting sick and slept late on Saturday.
The family went out to dinner that night and Ortiz went to bed early, Yorkis said. She woke up about midnight and told her sister she had a horrible headache. They went to the hospital, and she died.
"We lost our daughter in 36 hours," Ortiz's father said, according to Yorkis.
In 20 years, the Bentley has only had one of case of bacterial meningitis, which was in 2002, and the student recovered. Last year, Massachusetts recorded 21 cases of the illness.