Nearly 400 students gathered to pray for Rachel Futterman who was on life support Sunday evening. ORACLE PHOTO/JOSE LOPEZ JR.
A member of the Delta Gamma sorority was on life support with no chance of recovery Sunday night after a two-day battle with bacterial meningitis, according to a University official.
Some news agencies reported late Sunday night that Rachel Futterman, a marketing sophomore, had died, but Dean of Students Kevin Banks said he contacted the family just before midnight Sunday, and they said their daughter was still on life support.
At least 26 students who were in contact with Futterman, many of whom included her sorority sisters, had been treated with a strong antibiotic by Saturday evening, according to University officials.
Banks said another student had been admitted to the hospital with symptoms of meningitis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection that inflames the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, but tested negative and was released. At this point the University has confirmed no new cases of infected students.
University officials have urged anyone experiencing any of the flu-like symptoms associated with early stages of bacterial meningitis to get checked at Student Health Services.
Futterman was not in any classes during the times she would have been contagious, and there is no way of knowing how or where the student contracted the disease, said Director of Student Health Services Egilda Terenzi in a press release.
She seemed fine when she came into work as a server at Gator’s Dockside on Fletcher Avenue on Thursday, said co-worker Amber Bellois, adding that she had gone out the night before.
“She was so young, happy, active and bubbly,” Bellois said. “She was always talking about being in a sorority.”
Bellois said she had a bite of Futterman’s salad and had to receive treatment for meningitis.
“I gave her a ride home Thursday after work, and she said she would see me later at work,” she said. “And that was the last time I saw her.”
Members of the Delta Gamma sorority have requested they be given space and time to grieve for Futterman and are declining to comment to the media.
“They’re really struggling right now,” Assistant Dean of Students for Greek Life Megan Vadnais said. “It’s been very difficult for them. Their primary concern is making sure Rachel’s family has the support they need and making sense of what has happened over the last 48 hours.”
The news of the student’s illness hit hard in a tight-knit Greek community trying to come to grips with the possibility of losing one of its own.
“When you join a Greek organization, you pledge yourself to support, love and care for not only the people in your chapter but the other people in the Greek community,” Vadnais said. “When something like this happens, the chapter and the whole Greek community still feel the sense of loss, the sense of hurt.”
Hundreds of members of USF’s fraternities and sororities formed a thick circle in USF’s Greek Village as they prayed for the Futterman during a candlelight vigil Sunday night. Many of them had learned of her condition just hours earlier.
“At times like this, it’s difficult to find the right things to say,” Banks said during the vigil. “Things like this remind us to appreciate the time we have.”
David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bacterial meningitis can only be transmitted through the air by droplets of respiratory secretions or direct contact with an infected person – including oral contact of shared items, such as cigarettes or drinking glasses, or intimate contact such as kissing.
If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and lethargy.
Bacterial meningitis strikes about 3,000 people a year and is responsible for 300 deaths annually.
Any students, faculty or staff who have concerns can visit the USF Student Health Center or call (813) 974-2331.