An 18-year-old student at Louisiana State University who was found dead in her dorm room in September died of acute viral meningitis, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office.
The LSU freshman, Marakah Dennis, from the Washington D.C.-Maryland area, was found dead in her dorm room in Cypress Hall on Sept. 17, according to the Reveille, the school’s student newspaper.
A toxicology report recently conducted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office revealed her cause of death as acute viral meningitis. There were no signs of trauma or physical injuries to her body, the Reveille reported, citing East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark.
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Meningitis is most commonly caused by viral infections, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Viral meningitis is usually mild and often clears on its own. Most cases in the United States are caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses, which are most common in late summer and early fall. Viruses such as herpes simplex virus, HIV, mumps, West Nile virus and others also can cause viral meningitis,” it states.
The exact virus that caused Dennis’s case of viral meningitis is not clear at this time, however.
Early symptoms of the illness often mimic those of the flu; fever, achy muscles and a headache, among other signs, are common. But symptoms often progress to include a stiff neck, a “severe headache that seems different than normal,” per the Mayo Clinic, as well as nausea, vomiting, seizures, sleepiness, and more.
Two days before she died, Dennis was sick with an upset stomach, her roommate said, according to The Advocate, a local newspaper.
Unlike the vaccines available to prevent bacterial meningitis, there are no vaccines to protect against viral meningitis.
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That said, “Your body’s immune system is the most likely thing to defend you against the virus,” Clark told The Advocate. “Dying from viral meningitis isn’t a common thing; however, it can happen.”
Dr. Nelson Perret, LSU’s Student Health Center medical director, reminded university students and staff not to panic in response to the teen’s death.
“University personnel are at no more risk of developing viral meningitis now than they were eight weeks ago before this unfortunate case happened,” he said.