A UC Davis student diagnosed with meningococcal disease on Feb. 23 was recently released from hospital care, according to University and Yolo County Public Health officials. The patient spent less than one week in the hospital, which officials declined to name, and is currently recovering following bacterial treatment.
Public health officials have released limited information on the student in order to preserve privacy. According to Dr. Michelle Famula, executive director of Health and Wellness at UC Davis, the patient lives off-campus, has roommates and has not recently visited the Activities and Recreation Center. The student went to the hospital for treatment and did not visit the Campus Health Center.
According to Famula, only those in close contact with the student are at increased risk for infection. Close contact is defined as household members, intimate partners or individuals that are involved in exchange of saliva in activities such as kissing, sharing utensils, sharing water or smoking.
Although only four students were considered at high risk of contracting the bacterial infection, approximately 24 students in close contact with the patient have been notified in order to be conservative, according to Famula. These students were offered preventative medication, which is a single dose of 500 mg Ciprofloxin antibiotic.
“This medication clears meningococcal bacteria resting in the nasal and oral passages if acquired from an infected contact,” Famula said.
Meningococcus bacteria can lead to bloodstream infections and meningitis, which is the infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Symptoms can include sudden fever, severe headache, stiff neck, visual sensitivity to light, body aches, blotchy red rash, confusion and nausea. The disease may often be mistaken for influenza or a viral infection, so it is essential to immediately visit a medical professional if any of these symptoms arise.
When an individual is admitted for meningococcal disease, the standard protocol is to serotype for the meningococcal bacteria strain. The resulting bacteria of the test, serogroup B, is not included in the standard meningitis vaccine but is in a new Type B meningococcal vaccine.
According to Famula, student health has obtained this new vaccine and interested students are welcome to come get it at this time.
“We recommend students consider voluntarily adding this new vaccine to cover for all strains of the bacteria,” Famula said. “The current routine meningococcal vaccine covers for all but the B strain.”
In addition to the already-required Hepatitis B vaccine, incoming students in Fall Quarter 2016 will be required to have four additional vaccines, including one for meningitis.
“A requirement for vaccination may reduce the frequency of new index cases,” Famula said. “More importantly, it will help provide general population immunity to reduce spread to unsuspecting close contacts if an index case is diagnosed.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the first meningitis vaccine is usually administered to children by age 11, and the second booster should be given between the age of 16 and the time one begins college. Vaccinations are currently available at the Student Health Center, and Famula urges individuals to complete any outstanding immunizations.
“Students should continue to exercise common sense measures of hand washing, covering coughs, discarding tissues and avoiding sharing cups and utensils to reduce the spread of upper respiratory microorganisms of all types, especially flu,” Famula said.
UC Davis students with questions regarding meningococcal disease or any related symptoms may contact the Student Health and Counseling Services’ Advice Nurse Line at (530) 752-2349. Parents and the general public with further questions may contact the Student Health and Counseling Services’ Directors Office at (530) 752-2333.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.