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Two UCSB Students Diagnosed with Meningococcal Disease

Two UC Santa Barbara students are receiving treatment for meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection that causes bloodstream infections and meningitis, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced Monday.

The department is using the cases to urge the UCSB community to be aware of the symptoms and take preventive measures if they been in contact with someone who had been diagnosed.

While the ill students receive medical attention, the university and public health officials are investigating the cases and providing preventive antibiotics to contacts where indicated, said Susan Klein-Rothschild, a public information officer for the Public Health Department.

She said that college-age people, especially first-year students living in residence halls, are at increased risk of meningococcal disease.

Though the first case discovered recently at UCSB was caused by a strain of the bacteria that is not prevented by either of the available meningococcal vaccines, Klein-Rothschild said it's important for students to be up to date on their vaccinations to prevent the disease.

Signs and symptoms of the disease are sometimes mistaken for those of flu early in the course of illness, and can include high fever, severe headache, rash, body aches, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion.

Anyone with the signs or symptoms of meningococcal disease should seek medical care immediately, as early care is critical because the infection can quickly become life-threatening.

The health department is working to find people who had close contact with the ill students and recommending antibiotics to protect them from also becoming ill. Those considered close contacts include people exposed to the ill person’s respiratory and throat secretions through living in close quarters, kissing or other prolonged close contact, Klein-Rothschild said.

The case investigation has not identified any connection with students at Princeton University, where seven cases of the disease have been discovered since March.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two doses of meningococcal conjugate vaccine for all adolescents ages 11 to 12 and 16, and first-year students living in residence halls are recommended to receive at least one dose of vaccine prior to college entry. If only one dose of vaccine was given before age 16 years, an additional dose should be given before college enrollment.

Klein-Rothschild said that covering coughs, keeping hands clean and being up to date with recommended vaccines, especially flu vaccine, are actions everyone can take to stay healthy, protect themselves from illness, and prevent the spread of infections to others.

"Persons with questions or concerns about meningococcal disease are urged to contact UCSB Student Health or their primary healthcare care provider," she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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