December 4, 2013
Meningitis Outbreak At UCSB Results In Double Foot Amputation
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A bacterial meningitis outbreak that has been sweeping its way across Princeton University, infecting at least eight students since earlier this year, is now on the loose at University of California Santa Barbara.UCSB authorities say a fourth student has come down with a strain of meningitis similar to the one that has been ongoing at Princeton in New Jersey. While students on the east coast have all received care and have made full recoveries, at least one student from UCSB had to have both his feet amputated as a result of lack of blood supply to his limbs due to infection.
"He's from my hometown. I hope he is doing well," UCSB student David Burkow, told ABC News. "It's just kind of scary because there is a constant fear."
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department declared on Monday that all four students became ill last month. Since the outbreak, more than 300 students who had contact with those who fell ill were given antibiotics.
Now, the California University has urged students to refrain from attending social events, which includes all sorority and fraternity parties, to try to keep the disease from spreading, according to an official statement on Monday.
Bacterial meningitis can be caught by kissing, coughing and prolonged contact, as well as through cup sharing, which is common at college parties. Symptoms include headache, fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.
Fraternity member Jared Dinges told ABC News’ Sydney Lupkin that he has a few "rules of thumb" for keeping clear of the potentially deadly disease.
"Just don't share bottles," he said. "Try to avoid kissing new girls -- things like that. Just be safe."
While UCSB officials are on high alert, experts with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have maintained that the California meningitis outbreak is not connected to the Princeton outbreak, as the two strains do not share a similar “fingerprint.”
As for the Princeton outbreak, the FDA has approved an internationally available meningitis vaccine to be shipped to the US for the Ivy League students. Princeton is expected to receive about 6,000 doses for its students around December 9, 2013.
Meningitis kills at least one in 10 people who contract it and leaves about 20 percent of survivors with permanent health problems, including limb loss and mental retardation, according to the CDC.
UCSB officials are urging all students to seek medical care at the first sign of symptoms. While the school is stopping short of forcibly stopping all social events, it is making sure students are aware that meningitis can be transmitted through close social contact, including sharing alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and eating off the same plate or sharing utensils.
"All the existing cases appear to have had close personal contact," the school noted in an email to the campus community.
Meningitis is not as common in the US as it once was, but figures reported by NBC News show that between 800 and 1,200 cases are still reported annually in the US. Vaccines that are available for meningitis in the US only cover four strains: A, C, Y and W-135. The B strain vaccine, which is available in Europe and Australia, is not yet approved for use in the general US community.
NBC News also reported that another case of meningitis from New Jersey-based Monmouth University is from the C strain of meningitis. That person remains hospitalized, but is recovering, according to a college spokeswoman.