Three UCSB students have now been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection that can cause widespread blood infections or meningitis. The outbreak — three cases define an outbreak — began on November 11 and now includes two males and one female. The most recent case was confirmed on November 18.
There are handful of other UCSB students who could be at risk, said the County of Santa Barbara’s Deputy Health Officer Charity Thoman in a press conference on Thursday, and blood tests are being conducted. Symptoms of the disease include high fever, severe headache, rash, body aches, nausea, or vomiting. The Public Health Department, along with UCSB Student Health representatives, have united for a public information campaign. They encourage anyone with signs or symptoms to seek medical care immediately.
Three hundred more UCSB students who met the definition of close contact are currently receiving antibiotics. Public health officials said 14 days after initial contact is crucial time to treat potential cases with antibiotics.
The disease can quickly become life-threatening if untreated and can spread through close contact, which includes living in close proximity, kissing, or other lengthy contact. Thoman confirmed that two of the cases are related and that two of the students live on campus, but she said she cannot release which dorms the students live in or any other details about the cases. All three students are currently receiving treatment.
Thoman said that there is no reason to believe that SBCC students — many live in Isla Vista — are at risk.
The strain in the three UCSB cases in serotype B, and it is the same strain found in the outbreak at Princeton University that began in March. Thoman said they have not found a connection between the cases at the two university campuses.
Serotype B is not one of the four serotypes included in the meningococcal vaccine routinely given to young people and college freshman in the United States. Serogroup B vaccine is not licensed in the U.S. and the Food and Drug Administration would have to approve the use of an unlicensed vaccine.
Students attending a University of California campus are not required to receive vaccines — except one to prevent hepatitis — before the start of school.
Mary Ferris, the director of UCSB’s Student Health Services, said she still encourages students to receive the meningococcal vaccine currently licensed in the United States. Student Health offers meningococcal vaccines on a walk-in basis, but due to the outbreak, students are also being offered these shots next Tuesday, November 26, in the UCen.
[UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.]: One of the three students diagnosed with meningococcal disease has recovered and is back in class, according to UCSB spokesperson George Foulsham. Another one of the students is expected to be discharged today.