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Meningococcal Disease Returns to Oregon State University

Two cases of meningococcal disease strain B have been confirmed at Oregon State University, urging officials to take preventive measures.

A serious, and often fatal disease has made its way to Oregon State University (OSU), as two students have been diagnosed with the same strain of meningococcal disease, serogroup B. Both students are receiving treatment at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center located in Corvallis, Oregon.

Although the first case had been identified as serogroup B meningococcal disease, the first time that health officials tested the second case, their results were inconclusive, according to a recent press release. However, a second test conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta found that the second case was infected with the same strain of the disease as the first reported case.

According to the CDC, outbreaks of meningococcal disease are rare but can be incredibly devastating. Between 2 and 3 out of every 100 cases of the disease are related to outbreaks, but outbreaks tend to be very unpredictable. “An outbreak occurs when there are multiple cases of the same serogroup (‘strain’) in a community or institution over a short period of time. Depending on the size of the institution and specific circumstances, having just two cases of the same serogroup may be considered an outbreak,” according to the CDC.

This is not the first time that OSU has experienced an outbreak of meningococcal disease. Last year, the university experienced an outbreak that resulted in a total of seven people falling ill and the death of one student.

When it comes to effective ways to quell an outbreak, vaccinating individuals at high risk for infection and providing antibiotics to exposed individuals are the best strategies. In fact, OSU Student Health Services have already begun outbreak control process by offering students who are under 25 years of age with a vaccination specific to fighting serogroup B of the disease.

In a press release, Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for marketing and university relations commented, “We’ll be communicating to students as they leave (campus) for the Thanksgiving holiday to continue to watch for symptoms.”

Meningococcal disease is typically spread through close contact with an infected individual. Generally, if a person has spent at least four hours in close, face-to-face proximity with someone who is infected, they are considered at risk, and so, health officials are looking to identify individuals who fit these criteria in order to administer preventive antibiotics. According to the press release, officials have made note of at least 230 individuals who have been contacted. Some have received the aforementioned preventive antibiotics, while others have not yet been located.

Those who may be suffering from meningococcal disease typically have a number of the following symptoms: high fever, headaches, stiff neck, exhaustion, rash, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Health officials urge anyone who is experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider immediately. Vaccination opportunities are available beyond the OSU campus with a doctor’s prescription.

According to an earlier OSU press release, there are other ways to take preventive measures against the potentially fatal disease:

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water.
  • Avoid sharing anything that may have touched an infected individual’s mouth (utensils, water bottles, smoking devices)
  • Not smoking (tobacco or marijuana)

As of November 23, 2016, no additional cases have been reported at OSU.