Santa Barbara Meningitis Outbreak: 4 Cases in a Month at UC Campus

Wednesday, 04 Dec 2013 07:15 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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The University of California, Santa Barbara has suspended all social events on campus after four people contracted meningitis in the last month, health officials announced Monday.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department also said it's offering a preventive antibiotic to roughly 500 students who have been in close contact with the four people diagnosed with the meningococcal disease, according to CBS News.

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It's not clear yet what specific strain of infection the victims have, but one of the them, a freshman lacrosse player, had to have both feet amputated last month when a nasty case of meningitis cut off blood supply to his limbs, CBS Los Angeles reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, initial meningitis symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, it can affect organs and lead to amputation or death.

Meningitis is spread through kissing, coughing, or close, lengthy contact, but the CDC notes that about 10 percent of those who transmit the disease carry the bacteria in the back of their nose or throat with no signs or symptoms.

National health statistics indicate that about one in 10 people diagnosed with meningitis will die, while survivors often suffer mental disabilities, paralysis, or hearing loss.

Princeton University in New Jersey is also grappling with an unrelated meningitis outbreak, and there have been a few cases reported on Monmouth University's campus in Long Branch, N.J. In all, eight people have been infected, CBS News reported.

To limit the spread, the CDC's Institutional Review Board signed off on a plan last month to import thousands of vaccines to Princeton. The particular vaccine, Bexsero, is approved for use in Australia and Europe, but not the United States.

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