ISU student dies; bacterial meningitis suspected

AMES, Iowa - An Iowa State University senior has died overnight at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. Initial lab tests at the hospital indicate the probable cause of death as bacterial meningitis. Final results are pending from the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory in Ankeny.

Travis James "TJ" Good, 22, of Omaha, lived with two roommates in an off-campus apartment in Ames. Travis reported feeling ill yesterday; friends took him to the Mary Greeley Medical Center emergency room at about 5:30 last night (April 13).

University officials were informed of Good's death at approximately 11:30 p.m. April 13. State and county health officials have been notified.

University and public health officials are in the process of contacting those who had very close contact with Good, including roommates and family members. A preventive antibiotic, Ciprofloxacin, is being administered to those who had close contact with him, said Michelle Hendricks, director of ISU's Thielen Student Health Center. Hendricks added that ISU students who shared a classroom with Good are not at risk, because that environment is not considered "close contact."

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis bacteria are spread through droplets from the nose and throat and from saliva. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "None of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria (that cause meningitis) are not spread by casual contact or simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been."

Signs of meningitis include high fever, headache, rash and/or stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort when looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, Hendricks said. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential.

Information about meningitis is available at the Thielen Student Health Center web site,; and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

For students who feel distressed or require support at this difficult time, professionals at ISU's Student Counseling Service are available to help at (515) 294-5056.


What do I do if I have symptoms?

Go to the Thielen Student Health Center (or your healthcare provider) immediately. After hours, go to the emergency room.

What if I'm uncertain about my symptoms?

Call the Thielen Student Health Center main line at (515) 294-5801.

Should I get the meningitis vaccine?

Thielen Student Health Center Director Michelle Hendricks says college-aged students, especially those who live in close quarters, should consider getting the meningitis vaccine, but "the vaccine is not prophylactic. It will not provide protection against this particular episode of illness."

The CDC encourages college freshmen living in residence halls to be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine before entering college if they have not previously been vaccinated.

Are students required to get the meningitis vaccine before enrolling at Iowa State?

"The State of Iowa requires that we inform and educate students who will be living in residence halls about the vaccine, but they aren't required to get it," Hendricks said. Students self-report to the Thielen Student Health Center whether they've been vaccinated.

What can I do to help prevent the spread of illness?

Bacterial meningitis is not caused by casual contact, but through oral secretions or droplets. You can help prevent the spread of illness by not sharing beverages, glasses, utensils or toothbrushes. Maintaining healthful habits, such as getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can also help.

Is it a health risk for me to attend Veishea or other mass gatherings?

"Environmentally, there is no indication that large public events present any health risk for meningitis," TSHC's Hendricks said. "We are heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of one of our students. However, there is no health threat to the general public who go to large events such as Veishea, visit shopping malls, schools, places of worship, or other areas where people gather."