UCSB SHS

Meningitis Health Alert



Q & A Interview with Dr. Mary Ferris and meningitis at UCSB


12/16/13 - UPDATE:

  • Centers for Disease Control launches a webpage addressing meningitis at UCSB.
  • Questions about the unlicensed serogroup B meningococcal vaccine will be answered by CDC through email at meningvaccine@cdc.gov

Student Health Winter Break Hours Information
Urgent messages may be left at (805) 893-2251 and will be checked on a daily basis.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Press Release 12/2/13

Santa Barbara County Public Health Press Release 11/21/13

Santa Barbara County Public Health Press Release 11/18/13

Off-Campus Provider Information

Communications to Faculty, Staff and Students:

December 9 emails sent to students, parents, faculty and staff

December 2 emails sent to students, parents, faculty and staff

November 22 emails sent to students, parents, faculty and staff

November 21 emails sent to students, parents, faculty and staff

November 18 emails sent to students, parents, faculty and staff

What about the meningitis vaccine that is being used at Princeton?

We have been working closely with the infectious disease experts and doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local health officials over the past several weeks. The process taking place at UC Santa Barbara is based on the protocol that was used at Princeton University. UCSB is actively taking all of the necessary steps to ensure access to the unlicensed vaccine if it is recommended by health and medical experts.

The University community should be aware of these important points about meningitis:

•Any student with a high fever should go to Student Health or call (805) 893-7129 during business hours.

•You may become ill with meningitis even if you have not been in contact with someone who is sick. The bacterium that causes meningitis occurs naturally and can survive in the nose and throat in a small number of people without causing symptoms to the carrier, while still being contagious to others. Most cases of meningitis are acquired through exposure to these asymptomatic carriers.

•You can help prevent the spread of disease by increasing hygienic practices, and not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or smoking materials.

Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis can include:

  • high fever, severe headache or stiff neck. 
  • These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take one to two days. 

  • The average incubation period is less than four days, but it can range between two and 10 days. 

  • Most people with meningitis are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics.

UCSB Student Health is working with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department to notify and treat anyone who is found to be at risk from their contact with the affected students.  Close contact is exposure to the ill person's respiratory secretions through sharing of eating utensils, cigarettes, kissing, or close face-to-face prolonged contact.  To prevent the spread of all infectious disease, frequent hand-washing and avoiding sharing of drinking cups and smoking devices is recommended.

The University continues to work with local and State health officials, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to find ways to limit the spread of this disease.

Again, members of the University community who experience high fever or severe headache and stiff neck, or have health concerns should seek medical attention.

People at high risk of infection include those with decreased immunity, smokers, and those whose spleen is damaged or has been removed.

Helpful precautions include:

•Always coughing into a sleeve or tissue, washing hands frequently, and using hand sanitizer often.

•Not sharing drinking glasses, smoking materials, eating utensils, or drinking from a common source, such as a punch bowl.

UCSB will continue to provide reminders and additional information on campus about taking precautions to help limit the spread of disease. Information about meningococcal meningitis is available on the Centers for Disease Control Website.

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Frequently asked questions

What is meningitis?

How is bacterial meningitis treated?

Is bacterial meningitis contagious?

What are the symptoms?

How long until symptoms begin to present themselves?

Can someone be a “carrier” without experiencing symptoms?

What should I do if I develop flu-like symptoms or think I’ve been exposed to meningitis?

How can transmission be prevented?

Can someone carry the disease without getting sick?

Should I wear a mask to prevent exposure?

Isn't there a vaccine for meningitis?

Who is at higher risk from meningococcal meningitis?

I have not had the meningococcal vaccine.  Should I get it and, if so, where do I get one?

Will frequent hand washing lead to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

What if soap and water are not available to wash my hands?

If alcohol sanitizes, is it safe to share an alcoholic beverage with my friend?

How do I disinfect against meningococcal disease?

What is meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitides that can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. There are a few different types or strains of Neisseria meningitides. In the US, types B, C and Y cause the majority of disease.

In the US, approximately 800 to 1,500 people are infected with meningococcal meningitis and 120 die from the disease per year. About one of every five survivors lives with permanent disabilities, such as seizures, amputations, kidney disease, deafness, brain damage and psychological problems.

How is bacterial meningitis treated?

Treatment should be started immediately. Most people with meningitis are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, other treatments may also be necessary.

Is bacterial meningitis contagious?

Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but generally is transmitted only through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as coughing, sharing drinks, kissing and being in close proximity for an extended period. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis could include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include severe fatigue, vomiting, confusion, and sensitivity to light. Later in the illness, a rash that looks like purple blotches or spots on the arms, legs and torso may appear.

How long until symptoms begin to present themselves?

They can develop over several hours, or may take a few days. The incubation period can range from 2-10 days but commonly is 3-4 days.

Can someone be a “carrier” without experiencing symptoms?

Five to 25 percent of people may carry the bacteria in their nose or throat without getting sick. This carrier state may last for days or months before spontaneously disappearing. (Most cases of meningitis are acquired through exposure to these asymptomatic carriers.)

What should I do if I develop flu-like symptoms or think I’ve been exposed to meningitis?

Students experiencing high fever with or without headache, stiff neck and other symptoms of meningitis should be examined at Student Health or local medical facilities. Faculty and staff should go to the local emergency room. Visitors and those off-campus should go to the local emergency room as well.

How can transmission be prevented?

Do NOT share anything that comes in contact with the mouth, including:

•water bottles

•lip balm

•toothbrushes

•towels

•drinking glasses

•cosmetics

•smoking materials

•food or drink from common source (e.g., punch bowl)

•Do not cough into another person's face. Cough into your sleeve or a tissue.

•Wash or sanitize hands frequently.

•Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Can someone carry the disease without getting sick?

Approximately five to 25 percent of people may carry the bacteria in their nose or throat without getting sick, while still being contagious to others. This carrier state may last for days or months before spontaneously disappearing.

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Should I wear a mask to prevent exposure?

The Centers for Disease control does not recommend wearing a surgical mask to prevent exposure.

Isn't there a vaccine for meningitis?

Yes, there is a vaccine for meningitis. However, while the vaccine protects against the 4 most common strains of the bacteria, it does not protect against all types.

Who is at higher risk from meningococcal meningitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, infants, adolescents and young adults age 16 to 21, and those over age 65 are at a higher risk of infection. People with any immune deficiency and those whose spleen is damaged or has been removed are also at increased risk.  If you have questions or are concerned, please contact your personal physician.

Further information can be found on these websites:

Student Health

California Department of Public Health

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department

Centers for Disease Control

I have not had the meningococcal vaccine.  Should I get it and, if so, where do I get one?

The vaccine is recommended for children and teens ages 11 through 18 years old and all college students living in dormitories. Student Health administers the vaccine. Faculty and staff may also go to their personal physician.

Student Health has the meningitis vaccine available on a walk-in basis, Tuesdays 9-11am and Fridays 1:30-3:30pm, along with annual flu shots.

Will frequent hand washing lead to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others. If you are concerned about creating antibiotic resistant bacteria, use regular soap rather than antibacterial soap. There is no evidence that antibacterial soap is more beneficial than plain soap. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. The active ingredient in these hand sanitizers is usually alcohol, not an antibiotic.

What if soap and water are not available to wash my hands?

You may clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. The sanitizing hand gel available in University facilities is alcohol-based.

If alcohol sanitizes, is it safe to share an alcoholic beverage with my friend?

Sharing anything that comes in contact with the mouth (e.g., drinking cups, cans or bottles) can lead to the spread of meningitis. Alcoholic beverages do not contain enough alcohol by volume to prevent the spread of illness.

The consumption of alcohol may also lead to decreased judgment about sharing objects that come into contact with the mouth.

How do I disinfect against meningococcal disease?

Neisseria meningitidis is the causative agent of bacterial meningitis.  Transmission occurs by direct contact with infectious respiratory droplets or oral secretions.  Neisseria meningitidis does not survive well outside of people.  It has, however, been reported to survive on glass and plastic at room temperatures for hours to days. Therefore, it is necessary to disinfect bathroom and kitchen surfaces as well as kitchen utensils and dishes.

Neisseria meningitidis is highly susceptible to common disinfectants as well as to the temperature and duration of an automatic dishwasher cycle, e.g. >65 C for 5 min.  Common disinfectants used against this type of bacteria include household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or ethyl rubbing alcohol 70%. It is not necessary to use full strength household bleach. You may dilute one cup into one gallon of water.

Information Resources

UCSB Student Health is open for Urgent Care and Appointments weekdays 8am-4:30pm, with later opening on Wednesdays at 9am. Students with urgent questions and concerns can contact our Advice Nurses, in person on a drop-in basis or through confidential email at the student health gateway website. Parents are directed to visit our website where information will be continually updated. Parents with urgent questions may call Student Health at (805) 893-5339.

VIDEOS

Meningitis is Sneaky

Cover Your Cough - Humorous, but informative

Websites

Bacterial Meningitis- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Meningococcal Vaccine - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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