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Published On: Mon, Dec 2nd, 2013

UC Santa Barbara reports fourth case of meningococcal disease

A fourth University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) undergraduate student has been confirmed positive for meningococcal disease, according to a Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD)  press release today.

Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

The PHD says all four students with meningococcal disease became ill within a three week time period of November 2013. One case, that of freshman Aaron Loy, has resulted in permanent disability.

Health officials report that several steps have been taken to slow down the spread of the disease to include more than 500 students (close contacts) receive prophylactic antibiotics, educating students, staff and faculty at UCSB about meningococcal disease and constant communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health care providers concerning the outbreak.

LISTEN: Olympic medalist Dara Torres talks meningococcal meningitis

Several actions, in coordination with the California Department of Public Health will be implemented this week in an attempt to reduce possible future cases:

  • Providing antibiotics to additional individuals who we believe may have already been exposed to the bacteria based on a scientific assessment of the social networks of existing cases. These students will be directed to obtain antibiotics at UCSB no later than Tuesday and will be directed to take the medication onsite.
  • Informing all students, staff and faculty at UCSB about the importance of seeking medical care if they are ill (especially if they have signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease such as fever and headache) as timely treatment is very important to recovery. Even students who have been given preventive antibiotics can become ill depending on the timing of exposure; preventive antibiotics only offer protection for about one day, so students can become ill if exposed to the bacteria again in the future.
  • Informing all students, staff and faculty at UCSB of the importance of maintaining healthy personal habits during the normal stressful exam period (e.g. good sleep, nutrition and hygiene behaviors) and staying home when ill to minimize exposure to others.
  • Suspending specific social events on campus, i.e., parties sponsored by Greek organizations, in an effort to interrupt transmission of the outbreak strain in social networks.

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus.

The most common and familiar manifestation of this disease is  meningococcal meningitis, the most severe form of bacterial meningitis.

If not treated, meningococcal disease leads to death in 50% of cases. Even if diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics it still causes death in 5-15% of people.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are sudden, with fever, stiff neck, body aches and headaches. As the disease progresses other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, photophobia and seizures. A petechial rash seen on the trunk and lower extremities, bleeding complications, multi-organ failures and shock are usually final signs. This disease has the ability to kill within hours of getting it.

Up to 10-20% of older children and young adults carry this organism in the mouth and nose, though the carriage rate will vary with age and closeness of population. The majority of people that carry this bacterium have no clinical disease. The organism is spread person to person through respiratory secretions from the nose and mouth (coughing, sneezing and kissing). Experts are unsure why some people advance to meningitis disease while many do not.

Crowded living conditions facilitate the spread of the organism and places like military barracks and college dormitories are well documented areas of concern with this disease.

If you have close contact with someone with meningococcal meningitis, see your doctor for prophylactic antibiotics.

Meningococcal meningitis is a devastating disease with epidemic potential. This disease is considered a medical emergency and if you have the classic symptoms see yourhealth care professional. It can be treated with antibiotics, but without delay.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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Have Your Say
  1. The Top 10 Infectious Disease and Outbreak News stories of 2013 - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Neisseria meningitis B was confirmed in at least a dozen students and staff at two US universities on opposite coasts–Princeton and UC Santa Barbara. […]

  2. Meningococcal meningitis group B confirmed in Drexel University student fatality - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B is the same type seen in outbreaks at Princeton University in New Jersey and the University of California, Santa Barbara. […]

  3. UC Santa Barbara will be offering the meningitis … – The Global Dispatch | Everyday News Update says:

    […] to a story one month ago, The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who has experienced four cases of meningococcal meningitis group B during a three week time frame in Nov. 2013, will be offering the unlicensed in the US, Novartis vaccine Bexsero […]

  4. UC Santa Barbara will be offering the meningitis … – The Global Dispatch | Custom News Cast says:

    […] to a story one month ago, The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who has experienced four cases of meningococcal meningitis group B during a three week time frame in Nov. 2013, will be offering the unlicensed in the US, Novartis vaccine Bexsero […]

  5. UC Santa Barbara will be offering the meningitis B vaccine, Bexsero, starting Feb. 24 - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] to a story one month ago, The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who has experienced four cases of meningococcal meningitis group B during a three week time frame in Nov. 2013, will be offering the unlicensed in the US, Novartis vaccine Bexsero […]

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