Third Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara, student sick with meningitis

Nov. 21, 2013 at 11:40 PM
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A third student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was confirmed to have the disease that causes meningitis, officials say.

The first two confirmed cases of meningococcal disease were of male students, the first one fell ill Nov. 11, and the latest case -- a female --was diagnosed Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

University and county health officials are investigating the cases, provided 300 preventive antibiotics to contacts of the students and educating the university community about meningococcal disease, including meningitis, which is infection of the lining of the brain and meningococcemia, infection in the blood.

People who have had close contact -- living in close quarters, kissing, or other prolonged close contact -- with those with meningococcal disease are recommended to receive preventive antibiotics, health officials said.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department said its investigation has not identified any connection with students sick from meningococcal bacteria known as serogroup B at Princeton University. The Ivy League university in New Jersey reported seven students at the Ivy were diagnosed with meningitis since March, with one student infected recently.

The Santa Barbara Public Health Department is identifying people who had close contact with the ill students and recommending antibiotics to protect them from also becoming ill.

Meningococcal disease signs and symptoms, which are sometimes mistaken for those of flu early in the course of illness, can include: high fever, severe headache, rash, body aches/joint pain, nausea/vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion.

"Anyone with the signs or symptoms of meningococcal disease should seek medical care immediately," health officials said. "Early treatment of meningococcal disease is critical as the infection can quickly become life-threatening. College-aged persons, especially first-year students living in residence halls, are at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Although the first recent case was caused by a strain of the bacteria that is not prevented by either of the available meningococcal vaccines, it is important for students to be up to date with meningococcal vaccination."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend two doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine for all adolescents ages 11-12 and 16 years.

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