Meningitis outbreak: California students may get vaccine Princet - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Meningitis outbreak: California students may get vaccine Princeton got

Posted:

By Ben Brumfield and Elizabeth Landau

A potentially deadly disease that can maim the brain has befallen two prestigious American institutions that educate the mind.

With permission, Princeton University has already been distributing a drug not approved in the United States to fight a campus outbreak of meningitis. Now California health officials are considering following suit, they announced late Thursday.

If they approve, about 700 students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will be offered a shot in the arm, after they came into close contact with four classmates who came down with meningococcal disease.

That's the bacterial ailment that can lead to meningitis, an infection of the protective tissue called the meninges that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

All four of the students infected at UCSB got meningitis. Two have recovered, and another is expected to soon, but the fourth has suffered serious complications.

Other germs like fungus and viruses can also lead to meningitis, but they are milder or harder to catch. The bacterial type is contagious and very dangerous.

"It's the bacterial meningitis branch that packs the most powerful punch. Its bacterial swarm can cause brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities," the Centers for Disease Control say in an online flier.

The strain of bacteria infecting the students and Princeton and UCSB is type B. There is no FDA approved vaccine to fight it, so one is having to be imported.

It starts with a 'cold'

Meningococcal disease doesn't have to turn into meningitis. It starts out like a bad chest cold, but it can spread via the phlegm to the meninges.

Patients with meningitis can fully recover, but UCSB student Aaron Loy has not been so fortunate, according to a website dedicated to his recovery.

If things go bad, stiff neck, headaches, fever, delirium and vomiting can crescendo in permanent neurological damage. The disease can also get into the blood stream and attack extremities.

Doctors may have to amputate a limb while fighting it, the CDC said.

They had to remove two of Loy's, his lower legs. He is an avid soccer player. The charity HelpHOPELive is taking donations to help him meet medical expenses, including prosthetic legs and physical therapy.

Bacterial meningitis can also kill.

Target: young, healthy groups

The viral and fungal types attack mostly infants and the elderly, but the bacteria like young, healthy adults, who live in close quarters. Places, where they sneeze and cough on each other, forget to wash their belongings and hands, or share a glass or a kiss, the CDC said.

Students in dorm rooms make the perfect target.

UCSB is sending a letter to its fraternities and sororities, most of which are based off campus, asking them to refrain from large social gatherings where cups might be exchanged, UCSB spokesman George Foulsham said.

"We're almost certain that they'll go along with that as we head into the holiday period here," he said.

Luckily, bacterial meningitis is not commonplace.

There were only 480 cases of it last year in the United States. And the chances of dying go down to 15%, if someone who is infected takes vaccines and antibiotics, the CDC said.

The vaccine

The CDC recommends that college freshmen living in dorms receive a meningitis vaccine, but the vaccine approved for use in the United States does not protect against the kind caused by type B bacteria.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis makes an inoculation called Bexsero, which is approved in Europe and Australia but has not yet passed FDA approval.

The students at both universities are swallowing the antibiotics, but those at Princeton are already getting the vaccine. The university will offer the shot to more than 5,500 students in dorms and similar living quarters.

The CDC has given its blessing. Authorities in California are still deciding whether or not to let UCSB join them.

Health officials are currently not making any additional exceptions for the use of the Swiss vaccine, pending FDA approval.

Anything that weakens resistance to disease, such as age, diabetes, an AIDS infection or drugs that suppress the immune system make people more susceptible to meningococcal disease, the Mayo Clinic said.

That includes excessive use of alcohol -- another reason to put off campus bashes, until the bacterial scourge is banned.

CNN's Chuck Johnston contributed to this report

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

  • Man Arrested For Holding Mother Against Her Will

    Man Arrested For Holding Mother Against Her Will

    A Corpus Christi man was arrested late Thursday night after allegedly holding his mother captive for several hours. Police say the 54-Year old held against her will and beaten in her apartment along the 800 block of Hancock Avenue, allegedly at the hands of her own son, Joe Witherspoon, 29.The woman tried to get away several times, but Witherspoon refused to let her leave and threatened her more. Around 11:40 PM Monday night, someone knocked on the apartment door, the woman then took running ...More >>
    A Corpus Christi man was arrested late Thursday night after allegedly holding his mother captive for several hours. Police say the 54-Year old held against her will and beaten in her apartment along the 800 block of Hancock Avenue, allegedly at the hands of her own son, Joe Witherspoon, 29.The woman tried to get away several times, but Witherspoon refused to let her leave and threatened her more. Around 11:40 PM Monday night, someone knocked on the apartment door, the woman then took running ...More >>
  • Man Wanted for Stealing Construction Equipment

    Man Wanted for Stealing Construction Equipment

    Arrest warrants have been issued for Daniel Martinez, 32, in connection with the burglary of a building in Corpus Christi. It was back on August 21st when Corpus Christi police raided the home of Martinez along the 1700 block of Nile Dr.In all police have obtained four warrants for Martinez, including two for the burglary of a building and two others for theft. During the August 21st raid, police found stolen items including two trailers, a couple of cement spreaders, two compressors, a weldi...More >>
    Arrest warrants have been issued for Daniel Martinez, 32, in connection with the burglary of a building in Corpus Christi. It was back on August 21st when Corpus Christi police raided the home of Martinez along the 1700 block of Nile Dr.In all police have obtained four warrants for Martinez, including two for the burglary of a building and two others for theft. During the August 21st raid, police found stolen items including two trailers, a couple of cement spreaders, two compressors, a weldi...More >>
  • Hazardous Rip Current Warning Issued Through Wednesday

    Hazardous Rip Current Warning Issued Through Wednesday

    The National Weather Service has issued a warning of dangerous rips currents along the middle Texas coast. The warnings are in place through Wednesday evening for beaches along the Texas coast that face the Gulf of Mexico.Experts say Tropical Storm Dolly is creating a surf that is dangerous for swimmers, especially around jetties and piers. Beach goers should be aware of their surroundings and watch out for jetties and piers and pay attention to flags and posted signs. Should you get caught i...More >>
    The National Weather Service has issued a warning of dangerous rips currents along the middle Texas coast. The warnings are in place through Wednesday evening for beaches along the Texas coast that face the Gulf of Mexico.Experts say Tropical Storm Dolly is creating a surf that is dangerous for swimmers, especially around jetties and piers. Beach goers should be aware of their surroundings and watch out for jetties and piers and pay attention to flags and posted signs. Should you get caught i...More >>