As Princeton University continues to make headlines for the recent outbreak of type B meningitis on its campus, another school is now on high alert to try and stop a similar outbreak. UC Santa Barbara health officials say that their campus is on high alert because two students have recently been confirmed to have a disease which often causes meningitis. As meningitis can be spread from student to student through daily activities, right now health officials are saddled with the burden of tracking down whomever these two students may have had close contact with over the last few weeks.
Dr. Charity Thoman from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department said,
“When we have one case of this bacteria causing infection of the blood or the brain we always have to identify people who were in close contact with the individual.”
She added that when they identify friends or acquaintances of the diseased students they are treated with antibiotics.
The disease is called meningococcal disease which is a bacterium which infects the bloodstream. Those students living in residency halls are highly prone to contracting the disease. Symptoms may include high fever, rash, light sensitivity and headaches.
The two students have been quarantined and are currently receiving medical treatment to prevent cases of meningitis. Meningitis can cause death or permanent disabilities and affects the brain and spinal cord.
UC Santa Barbara says that they are taking this situation very seriously and remind any student who has not received a vaccination against meningitis since they were 16, the health department on campus will provide shots without an appointment. They also report that their university center can provide shots.
As is the case with Princeton, this instance is especially scary in the world of meningitis outbreaks because it occurred on a college campus where thousands of students and staff interact in close courters and share living environments. The SB County Public Health Department added that when you are dealing with meningitis in living quarters, as are present at UC Santa Barbara, the cases are especially dangerous because the disease can be spread through secretions that occur on a daily basis like sneezing or through the transfer of saliva when kissing or sharing products used for eating and drinking.
There is no word yet of the disease these two students have contracted is becoming meningitis or if they have reason to believe it will spread through the campus. However, that does not mean that other colleges in the areas are not looking at the warning signs.
Dr. David Harris who is the Director of Health and Counseling at California Polytechnic State University says the disease is always scary at universities. “It tends to happen in clusters. That is why we recommend vaccinations for people who live in dormitories… because they are living in close proximity.” He added that meningitis is so alarming because it can progress so rapidly. He said that you can contract the disease and then be in a coma within an hour.
Although UC Santa Barbara and Princeton are on opposite sides of the country and miles apart, many are seeing the two outbreaks of meningitis, or the meningitis related disease, as linked together because they believe they were started due to conditions present on college campuses.
By Nick Manai
San Luis Obispo