Senior exposes Clinton to meningitis at graduation

by Siobhan Gorman | 6/21/95 5:00am

The day after graduating from Dartmouth and shaking hands with President Bill Clinton during Commencement ceremonies, Peter Hecht '95 fell ill with meningitis.

Complaining of flu-like symptoms, Hecht was admitted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center June 12, where he was diagnosed with meningitis -- a potentially fatal disease that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, according to College spokesman Roland Adams.

Hecht was released from DHMC on June 15 "with a clean bill of health," said Hecht's mother Joanne.

Director of College Health Services Dr. Jack Turco said he contacted the President's physician immediately.

He said Clinton's chances of contracting meningitis were zero, but he thought he should still notify the White House.

"Both the Center for Disease Control and all experts I talked to said they wouldn't have notified him, but we felt obligated to inform his physician," Turco said.

He said meningitis is transmitted via oral secretions of the meningococcus bacteria, such as coughing, which can then be inhaled by others and colonize in their throat or nasal passages.

To ward off the disease, Clinton took a pill form of cipro, an antibiotic that would eliminate any of the bacteria from his throat or nasal cavities, Turco said.

Clinton is reported as being in good health.

"The President is in excellent health, and his doctor knows he is considered low-risk for being inflected," Deputy White House Press Secretary Ginny Terzano told The Associated Press last week.

The College also notified Hecht's close friends or others Hecht may have exposed to the disease, Adams said.

Hecht's was the fourth reported case of meningitis on campus this year.

Turco said meningitis usually strikes during the winter when people tend to stay in confined areas for longer periods of time.

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