A fourth student at UCSB has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis or blood infections. One of the previously diagnosed students, Aaron Loy, had his feet amputated almost two weeks ago to prevent the spread of the infection, according to online posts from family members. Two of the other students have returned to class, according to UCSB spokesperson George Foulsham. All four cases were identified within three weeks in November.
Over 500 students who met the definition of being in “close contact”— living in close proximity, kissing, or other lengthy contact — with the ill students were given antibiotics intended to prevent the potentially life-threatening disease, although the drugs only protect individuals for about one day, according to a statement released by the Public Health Department on Monday.
Public Health and UCSB are also providing antibiotics to additional students who were likely exposed to the bacteria. The identified students have been directed to receive these drugs no later than Tuesday, the statement said.
The two organizations have also united to provide information about prevention to all students, staff, and faculty. In an email sent to UCSB students on Monday afternoon, UCSB officials said classes and campus events can safely continue.
But the university and Public Health advise all students to refrain from participating in social events — such as fraternity and sorority-sponsored parties — that involve close personal contact, alcohol, or smoking in an effort to stop the spread of the outbreak. Foulsham added further efforts have been made by UCSB employees to “religiously clean recreation equipment” in the UCSB RecCen.
Disease prevention and control strategies cannot guarantee that there will not be additional cases as part of this outbreak, the Public Health statement said. The two organizations are working with the California Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control to implement preventative measures. The Public Health Department urges all students with symptoms of severe fever, headache, or vomiting to seek medical care immediately.
Editor’s Note: This story was revised on January 8, 2014, to reflect that the fourth stricken student did not receive antibiotics prior to becoming ill.