Christopher Koger, an Ohio State student, died in his apartment Friday afternoon because of a likely case of meningitis. Koger was 23 years old and a fourth-year in English.
Koger was from Bedford Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, where his family still lives. He was a full-time student and worked part-time for the Ohio Democratic Party.
Christopher’s sister Tamiyka Koger, 32, said Christopher was passionate about OSU, sports and music.
“He went to Ohio State because he followed in my footsteps,” Tamiyka said. “He loved sports. He was an avid Cleveland fan. He was always listening to music and he loved children. That’s why he wanted to be an English teacher, just like his mother.”
Tamiyka said Christopher had plans on graduating in June and attending graduate school.
“He was studying hard,” she said. “He just wanted to finish so he could graduate and do what he loved.”
The Franklin County Coroner’s Office reported Monday afternoon that Christopher’s official cause of death is meningococcal meningitis, said Ruth Gerstner, OSU Office of Student Life spokeswoman.
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis, a serious infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Viral meningitis is usually relatively mild and clears up within a week or two without any specific treatment. Bacterial meningitis is much more serious. If left untreated, it can cause severe damage in the brain and death within 12 to 24 hours, according to the WebMD website.
“After we got the report around noon today (Monday), we e-mailed all 129 students that had been in the four classes he took this quarter and notified them of his death,” Gerstner said. “We explained in the memo the circumstances to which they might have been exposed.”
The circumstances include coming into close contact with the person, living in the same house, sharing saliva in any way, such as kissing or sharing a cigarette, a drink or food.
Gerstner said if students felt they met the circumstances listed above, they should seek a health care provider immediately. She said all Koger’s classmates, co-workers, friends, instructors and family were offered a prophylactic protective antibiotic.
“It’s one pill and we will provide that for free,” Gerstner said. “But it’s still important to be evaluated by a healthcare provider.”
College students are at a higher risk of contracting the disease because of the closeness of living quarters and the way that the disease is spread, Gerstner said. She said doctors say late winter into early spring is the most common time for meningitis outbreaks.
Gerstner said the last case of meningitis at OSU’s campus occurred at the Mansfield location in 2006. Prior to that, she said she thought the last death was about 2000 or 2001 at OSU.
Gerstner said the Student Advocacy Center is also in contact with Harrison Apartments on Lane Avenue, the apartment complex where Christopher resided. His roommate found him dead in his apartment on Friday afternoon.
“We informed them of the possibility that they may be at risk too,” Gerstner said. “Circumstances like very close contact, living in the same house and sharing saliva through cigarettes or eating and drinking after one another are high risk factors.”
Representatives from Harrison Apartments were unavailable to comment on Monday night.
The Student Advocacy Center, which is part of student life, coordinates responses to student death and illness, Gerstner said.
Anyone who has any questions or concerns should call the Student Health Center, she said.
According to the Student Health Services website, about 300 deaths result from meningitis annually in the U.S. and about 10 percent of all cases result in death.
The Ohio State Medical Center was unable to comment Monday evening.
“This is a very sad situation and of course, our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Gerstner said.
Tamiyka said Christopher’s services are scheduled to begin Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mount Zion Church in Oakwood Village, Ohio. The funeral will is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., she said.
Any condolences or acknowledgements can be sent to the Koger family at 25360 Randolph Rd., Bedford Heights, OH 44146, Tamiyka said.