University of Maine Credit: Brian Feulner

Two students taking classes at the University of Maine through the nursing program have been diagnosed with viral meningitis, according to university officials.

The students are being treated for the illness, and the university is taking steps to help prevent the spread of the virus, which causes inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. UMaine officials learned of their conditions Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, viral meningitis is often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and most people with mild cases get better on their own within seven to 10 days. Severe illness from viral meningitis is more likely to affect babies less than 1 month old and people with weakened immune systems than it is people who otherwise are in good health, according to the CDC.

Dick Young, associate executive director of auxiliary services for UMaine, said Friday that one of the students is taking graduate courses and the other is an undergraduate, so they were not taking any classes together. He said Dunn Hall, where the school’s nursing program operates, has been put on an increased disinfection cycle in an effort to prevent any additional cases developing.

“We feel it is pretty well contained to the one building,” Young said.

Young said the ailing students, whom he did not identify, are consulting with their health care providers and have been given time away from classes in order to mend. He said no other cases have been reported but that administrators have been in touch with public health officials and people involved in the nursing school about the situation.

If the students were working at an area health care facility, as nursing students often do, they would have to notify those facilities of any illness they are affected by, according to Young. He added he was not sure if these particular students have been working at such a facility.

Young said there has not been broad notification to the UMaine community about the virus because, due to the low risk, it “didn’t rise to that level” — but university officials have not ruled that out. In the meantime, staff and students at the school are asked to take proper precautions and to look out for possible symptoms such as fever, headache, lack of appetite, lethargy, nausea and irritability.

“We do have our radar up and are watching the community,” Young said.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....