UO freshman dies unexpectedly; possible bacterial infection, but not confirmed

EUGENE, Ore. - A University of Oregon freshman died "unexpectedly" Tuesday "after requiring medical attention," the school said in a statement late in the day.

Lauren Jones, 18, was a member of the acrobatics and tumbling team, the school said.

UO spokeswoman Julie Brown said the cause of Jones' death has not been confirmed, but it could possibly have been the bacterial infection, meningococcemia. She said Lane County Health & Human Services will have more information Wednesday.

Jason Davis, a spokesman for Lane County Health & Human Services said in an email Tuesday night, "At this point, we have no reason to believe that those students and faculty outside of her close contacts have anything to worry about. If this turns out to be meningitis or Meningococcemia, public health will work with the university to identify and notify additional contacts."

Davis said three UO students have been diagnosed with confirmed bacterial infections since January. Neither the health department nor the university have said if Jones is one of those students. If Jones is confirmed to have a bacterial infection, Davis said she would be the fourth UO student to be diagnosed this year.

Brown said the university is notifying residence hall students and student athletes who came into contact with Jones, and encouraging them preventative medicine in case they've been exposed to any bacterial infection.

Athletic Director Rob Mullens said in a letter sent to student athletes on Tuesday evening, "This is a heartbreaking situation for our community and we know that you may have concerns and we want to let you know about the support services available to you. We have identified that one of the potential causes for her death - which has not been confirmed - may be meningococcemia."

Brown said a similar letter was sent to students living in the residence halls.

"This is a terrible and sudden loss for our whole Oregon community, as well our acrobatics and tumbling team family," said Acrobatics and Tumbling Head Coach Chelsea Shaw in a statement. "Lauren was such a positive and bright spirit every day, and her smile was contagious. She will be greatly missed and our prayers and deepest condolences go out to her whole family, friends, previous teammates and anyone else who had the opportunity to know Lauren."

Jones graduated in 2014 from Southwest Dekalb High School in Lithonia, Georgia, located about 20 miles east of Atlanta. She was the captain of the varsity gymnastics team, and was named the most valuable player in her senior year. She was also a stand-out student on the honor roll, and a member of the band.

Read the entire news release from the University of Oregon Athletic Department here.

Davis said Jones' autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning, "We (Lane County Health & Human Services) actually aren't officially involved until the results of the autopsy scheduled for tomorrow indicate that her death is being attributed to a communicable disease."

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