Meningitis outbreak at UC Santa Barbara infects 4 since November

UC Santa Barbara/ Facebook

Four meningitis cases have been reported at the University of California, Santa Barbara since November, according to county health officials who warned of the outbreak.

All students got sick with meningococcal disease during a three-week period last month, one of which now has permanent disability from the dangerous infection.

Aaron Loy, a freshman lacrosse player at UC Santa Barbara, had both feet amputated and remains hospitalized, according to CBS Los Angeles.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is providing preventive antibiotics to about 500 students who were in close contacts with the first three students, and they’ve already identified people who had been in contact with the fourth person to get them drugs to try and reduce infection risk.

All social events on campus, such as Greek life parties, have been suspended to minimize exposure risk.

The health department is also providing information about meningococcal diseases on campus and pushing prevention strategies.

“While these actions may not prevent additional cases, we hope they may reduce the number of persons exposed to the outbreak strain of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria,” the health department said in a statement.

Some people who contract the Neisseria meningitides will develop an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, called meningitis.

The bacteria can be spread through kissing, coughing or lengthy contact. But, about 10 percent of people are “carriers” and harbor it in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease.

These bacteria fortunately are not as contagious as what causes the common cold or flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms can come on suddenly and appear flu-like with fever, headache and stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion.

If the infection spreads to the blood, people may experience damage to blood vessels and organs that require amputations or may lead to death.

All students, faculty and staff at UC Santa Barbara who feel ill are urged to seek medical care immediately, especially if they have signs of the disease, as timely treatment is important for recovery.

The CDC notes about one in 10 people diagnosed with a meningococcal disease will die, and about one in five survivors will have permanent disability.

An ongoing, unrelated outbreak of meningitis is also occurring across the country in New Jersey at Princeton University. Eight people have been infected. The university had to work with the CDC to import thousands of vaccines from Europe that targeted the specific strain of meningitis implicated in the outbreak that tends to be more common overseas.

It is unclear at this time which strain of disease is behind the outbreak at UC Santa Barbara.

The school has more information on the outbreak.

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