University of Hartford student dies of bacterial meningitis - WFSB 3 Connecticut

University of Hartford student dies of bacterial meningitis

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Patrick Chittenden passed away from bacterial meningitis, according to school officials. (The Hartt School Theatre Alumni Association photo) Patrick Chittenden passed away from bacterial meningitis, according to school officials. (The Hartt School Theatre Alumni Association photo)
UHart extended its health services hours starting Monday. (WFSB photo) UHart extended its health services hours starting Monday. (WFSB photo)
WEST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The University of Hartford community is mourning after of one of its students died because of bacterial meningitis.

Officials said senior Patrick Chittenden died of bacterial meningitis Friday.

Chittenden, who was just two weeks from graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, lived off campus. He was part of the university's theater, involved in countless plays.

"We're all at a loss for this vibrant spirit here, and it was so fast and unexpected," said Annmarie Davis, who taught and directed Chittenden for three years at Hartt School.

"He felt good, not having any problems," Davis said. "[He] said, 'I feel good today. What are we gonna do?' I said a little maintenance. You're graduating soon, let this be a maintenance day and he was talking about his plans for summer and life."

Chittenden studied and performed in nine different shows including Metamorphoses. Davis said she last saw him Wednesday morning and only later learned he got sick that night.

While Chittenden was said to have lived off campus, officials still advised on-campus students to take precautions. Anyone who had close contact with Chittenden was urged to get an antibiotic.

The school sent out an email alert over the weekend about Chittenden's death.

On Sunday and Monday, school officials said about 130 students stopped by Campus Health Services to get checked out and pick up antibiotics.

"None were symptomatic. Students still going in today, extended hours today and tomorrow and Wednesday," said Dave Isgur, who is the UHart director of media relations. "We are fully staffed with counseling to talk to them about the loss."

Additional supplies were ordered to protect against the potentially contagious illness that took Chittenden too soon.

Counselors were also on hand to help students cope with the loss.

"That's really scary," said Kevin Silva, a freshman. "I'm definitely going to make sure I'm healthy now."

UHart said it was working to provide information and treatment to Chittenden's roommates and close friends.

It also said all UHart students were required to get the meningitis vaccine before enrolling, so it was likely that most students were protected. However, the vaccine loses its effectiveness over time.

Anyone who came within three feet of Chittenden within the last three weeks and was showing the symptoms was advised to head to an emergency room.

Doctors said meningitis is spread by saliva and mucus, often through coughing, sneezing or by close contact like kissing, sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes or cigarettes.

Warning signs include a high fever, severe headache, an extremely stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. A red rash, sensitivity to bright lights and confusion are also said to be symptoms.

"On behalf of the university, I again want to offer our deepest condolences to Patrick's family and friends," said Dr. J. Lee Peters, vice president for student affairs.

Chittenden's family thinks he may have caught meningitis on a recent trip to Princeton University. The same strain infected eight students on the New Jersey campus.

"This is a shocking loss, we will miss him," Chittenden's uncle told Eyewitness News.

Services for Chittenden will be held in North Carolina on Tuesday. There may be a memorial service in the summer in Connecticut, family members told Eyewitness News.

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