A 20-year-old student at the University of Maryland at College Park was hospitalized yesterday with a suspected case of bacterial meningitis, and people who may have been in close contact with him are being alerted, a university official said last night.

Margaret Bridwell, director of the university health center, said the student, who lives at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, was taken by fellow students to Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham yesterday after showing symptoms of the potentially fatal disease.

A hospital spokeswoman said last night that doctors there "strongly suspect" the student has the disease, although the diagnosis had not been confirmed.

The disease, which causes a fever as well as severe neck stiffness and a rash, is transmitted by intimate contact, Bridwell said. She said authorities are trying to find those who may have been in such contact with the student in the past 10 days to give them preventive medication.

Jean Reuter, a university spokeswoman, said the approximately 20 other students living at the fraternity house already have been given a dose of the antibiotic Cipro.

A number of students reported yesterday to the health center, though it is unlikely that they were in close enough contact with the student to be at risk, Bridwell said.

She said the disease has not been reported on the College Park campus in four years. It was unclear where the student contracted it, Bridwell said.