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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 31, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 9
Obituary: Gilbert Olivier Duvalsaint, 19, Dies of Bacterial Infection

Gilbert Duvalsaint in his J-card photo

Gilbert Olivier Duvalsaint, a sophomore chemical and biomolecular engineering major, died Oct. 26 at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 19.

Duvalsaint had been taken to the hospital early in the morning from his residence at the Bradford Apartments with what he thought was an allergic reaction. His condition deteriorated very quickly, and he died hours later. Preliminary tests the following day suggested that the cause of death was most likely meningococcal infection, which can lead to bacterial meningitis.

Born on March 6, 1986, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Duvalsaint moved with his family in 1998 to Searingtown on Long Island, N.Y. A 2004 graduate of Herricks High School, he had entered the Krieger School as an undeclared major but switched to the Whiting School on Sept. 26. He told his new faculty adviser that he was originally focused on biology but that his fondness for mathematics prompted him to change to a major that involved more quantitative analysis. He planned to attend medical school after graduating from Johns Hopkins.

Duvalsaint was a music enthusiast with a special love for hip-hop and an avid poker player who was trying to organize a poker tournament among various fraternities on campus.

A member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, he was an active volunteer for that organization. He also served as a student adviser, assisting new students during orientation, and as a Hopkins Student Ambassador, helping prospective students and their families learn more about Johns Hopkins. The Admissions staff considered him an ideal representative of the university because he was so friendly and reliable.

"He was a well-loved and well-respected member of our community," wrote Susan Boswell, dean of student life, in an e-mail last week to Homewood students, faculty and staff. "As a university, we all are the poorer for his loss."

As of press time, funeral arrangements and plans for a memorial observance had not been finalized.

The university on Thursday informed all Homewood faculty, staff and students that the bacteria that likely caused Duvalsaint's death is transmitted only through very close contact with the infected person. Those who had been in close contact with Duvalsaint were notified that they should report that day to the Student Health and Wellness Center to begin a precautionary course of antibiotics.

Maryland law requires that students living in university housing be vaccinated against meningitis or sign a waiver. Duvalsaint had been vaccinated, but the vaccine is not 100 percent effective and is ineffective against the form of the bacteria found in Duvalsaint's blood, which causes up to 30 percent of the meningococcal disease in the United States.


Information About Meningitis

Further information about meningitis is available on the Web site of the Student Health and Wellness Center at

Students with questions should call the center at 410-516-8270; faculty and staff can call Occupational Health Services at 410-516-0450. After hours, both offices can be reached through Campus Safety and Security at 410-516-4600. The Emergency Department at Union Memorial is also available after hours to provide antibiotics free of charge to anyone who is at risk.


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