Four students at a prestigious California university have been diagnosed with meningitis. One of them is now permanently disabled. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) issued a press release Monday confirming a fourth case of meningococcal disease in a UCSB undergraduate student.
The students all fell ill within a three week time period last month. One student, identified by the Associated Press as freshman lacrosse player Aaron Loy, had both his feet amputated because of the illness.
Many students are concerned, understandably so, reports the Los Angeles Times.
More than 500 students identified as close contacts of the ill students have been given preventive antibiotics. The school is also making the general student population aware of the incidents and symptoms.
The outbreak comes at a time most students are beginning to stress over finals as the semester break nears. Health officials are encouraging students to maintain healthy sleeping and eating behaviors. The school has also suspended specific social events on campus. The school will continue to administer antibiotics to additional students who potentially have been affected or came into close contact with the four students.
Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, physical injury, cancer and even certain drugs. There are five types of meningitis: bacteria, viral, fungal, parasitic, and non-infectious meningitis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) oversees vaccines for meningitis.
Symptoms can be confused easily with those of the flu at first. They include a high fever, severe headaches, confusion, a rash, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, chills, and a heightened sensitivity to light.
Most of the precautions are simple common sense habits. Stay home if you are sick. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Do not share utensils, water bottles, or other such instruments. Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer.
Earlier this year, across the nation in New Jersey, Princeton University students had contracted type B meningococcal bacteria. There is no vaccine approved currently in the United States for this particular strain.
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