The most recent case involves an 18-year-old male student who was not at school when the disease was confirmed, Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said. She could not say where the student was located.
UCSB Student Health has provided preventive antibiotics to more than 500 students who were identified as having close contact with the ill students. There are walk-in vaccinations available along with flu shots at the campus health center every Tuesday and Friday, Klein-Rothschild said.
Public Health will be providing more antibiotics to people this week who they believe may have been exposed to the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, she said. The antibiotics provide protection only for about a day, and students can become ill if they become exposed to the bacteria again in the future, she noted.
The county is also recommending that students refrain from participating in social events that involve close personal contact, such as parties sponsored by Greek Life organizations, to prevent future cases.
Public Health has been working with UCSB Health, the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send out alerts to health-care providers as students head home for the holidays.
One case has resulted in a permanent disability, as UCSB freshman Aaron Loy has had both of his lower legs amputated to save his life, according to his family’s Caring Bridge website.
Loy, a UCSB lacrosse player from Carlsbad, was taken to the Cottage Hospital emergency room in mid-November by his suite-mates, according to his family.
Doctors at UC San Diego’s medical center were able to save Loy’s life, but had to amputate both of his lower legs, his family said.
Family and friends are fundraising for Loy’s medical expenses, prosthetics and rehabilitation costs that aren’t covered by insurance. Anyone can give tax-deductible donations through the Southwest Catastrophic Illness Fund or donate non-tax-deductible funds to the Aaron Loy Recovery Fund through Pacific Premier Bank in Encinitas.
The Aaron Loy Recovery Fund can be accessed through the Pacific Premier Bank at 781 Garden View Court, Suite 100 in Encinitas.
There is no vaccination for this particular strain of meningococcal disease, but Public Health recommends people be vaccinated for the other four strains.
Early treatment is critical because the disease can quickly become life-threatening. A rash, which can be purple, appearing on the body accompanied by fever, can be a signal that a person has meningococcal disease.
Other symptoms include severe headache, body aches, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion, and can be mistaken for flu early in the course of the illness.
It is spread by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions, so sharing water bottles, cosmetics, toothbrushes, smoking materials and kissing can spread the disease.
Anyone with the signs or symptoms of meningococcal disease should seek medical care immediately.