University of Illinois student dead, cause unknown

By Brittany Abeijon

Rob Davis, a 21-year-old University of Illinois student, died Thursday after being hospitalized with a yet-to-be-identified infection, campus officials said Friday.

Davis, a senior from Mokena majoring in biology, died at 8:49 p.m. Thursday at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, according to the Will County coroner’s office. No cause of death has been determined and an autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

Tests are being conducted to determine whether Davis may have died of meningitis and results should be available in about a week, said Dr. Robert Palinkas, physician and director of McKinley Health Center.

Palinkas said there are five strains that cause meningitis, and the vaccination they provide protects four out of the five strains.

“It is not uncommon that we see meningococcas, even in a person that is immunized.” Palinkas said. “The vaccine is not 100 percent effective.”

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Meningococcas meningitis, the most serious strain, is bred through sharing kitchen utensils, sharing a drink or by kissing. It involves moving bacteria from the mouth of one person to the mouth of another person, Palinkas said.

“If people have very prolonged and close contact, closer than 3 ft., they may be at risk,” he said. “We try to track down and offer preventative antibiotics.”

He said the antibiotics are 100 percent effective when there are no symptoms, which include high fever, stiff neck and headache. Students who demonstrate any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, campus officials said.

Palinkas said people who were in a classroom with an infected person have no reason to worry.

“Our job is to find people who have come in contact with them and essentially reconstruct someone’s life in the past week or two to see who they came in contact with and what the nature of the contact was,” Palinkas said.

Palinkas said on average, University of Illinois has one case of meningococcal meningitis per year.

More information about meningitis is available on the McKinley Health Center Web site,

Davis’ death is not connected to the hospitalization of the 21-year-old University of Illinois student with meningococcal meningitis.