Health & Medicine

UC Davis student hospitalized after being infected with a form of meningitis

Students perform tests during a class in 2014 at UC Davis, where a student has been diagnosed with a form of meningitis, university officials announced on Monday. Experts say that the disease is more apt to spread in crowded settings and recommend that anyone who was in contact with the ailing student take preventive antibiotics.
Students perform tests during a class in 2014 at UC Davis, where a student has been diagnosed with a form of meningitis, university officials announced on Monday. Experts say that the disease is more apt to spread in crowded settings and recommend that anyone who was in contact with the ailing student take preventive antibiotics. Special to the Bee

A UC Davis student has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, a contagious bacterial infection, university officials announced Monday.

The student has been hospitalized and is doing well, said Constance Caldwell, health officer for Yolo County

University health officials and Yolo County public health officers are working to identify people who had close contact with the student and are recommending they take preventive antibiotics, a university news release states.

Meningococcal disease – a type of meningitis – is most common in teens and young adults, Caldwell said. The disease is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions such as spit, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is not spread through casual contact.

University officials are recommending antibiotic prophylaxis to people who lived in close quarters, had prolonged close contact with or kissed the student.

Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light and confusion. A purple, blotchy, painful rash also can appear.

“Usually it comes on very suddenly,” Caldwell said. “All of a sudden you have a high fever, you feel horrible and have symptoms you might mix up with influenza or some other viral infection.”

Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical care immediately as the disease can quickly become life threatening. One out of 10 infected people die from the disease, even if treated, Caldwell said.

Vaccines are recommended for children as young as 11. Boosters should be given between ages 16 and 18 before students go to college.

“If they are headed to college and never had a dose, they should certainly get a dose,” Caldwell said. “It tends to spread in crowded settings where kids are living in dorms and eating in cafeterias and sharing water bottles.”

Vaccinations are available at UC Davis’ student health center.

A person is assumed to be contagious with meningoccoccal disease for about a week before becoming ill until after they have received antibiotics for 24 hours. Treatment continues for seven to 10 days depending on the nature of their infection, Caldwell said. Students with a serious infection are hospitalized.

It is not usually possible to figure out where the student contracted the disease, Caldwell said. About 10 percent of teens and adults carry the infectious bacteria in their nose or throat, although they have no symptoms, she said.

Students with questions or any associated symptoms should contact the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services’ Advice Nurse Line at (530) 752-2349. Parents and the general public with questions should call the Student Health and Counseling Services’ Directors Office at (530) 752-2333.

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.

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