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Northeastern freshman dies of bacterial meningitis

Northeastern University e-mailed students Wednesday alerting them about the death of a freshman from bacterial meningitis, and included information about the infectious disease along with details for contacting the school’s health center.

But university officials assured students the 18-year-old was not ill when on campus.

“Although the student had already left campus at the conclusion of the spring semester before developing symptoms, we have reached out to his known close contacts and offered medication and immunization,” the school said in a statement. “Northeastern is working in close coordination with the Boston Public Health Commission on this important matter.”

Ryan Shaw, from Wakefield, died Sunday, a university spokesman confirmed.

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Information posted by Northeastern on its health center website noted that meningitis is an infection of the tissues that surround and help protect the brain and spinal cord. It may be caused by viruses or bacteria.

The infection is passed by close contact, such as kissing, sharing water bottles, cigarettes, utensils, bottles, straws, and phones. It can also be spread by being within 3 to 6 feet of an infected person who is coughing or sneezing, the website said.

Living in close quarters, such as a college dorm, increases the risk of infection. State law requires newly enrolled full-time college students to receive the meningococcal vaccine.

Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com.