A bacterial meningitis outbreak at Oregon State University (OSU) has public health officials and medical providers in Idaho on guard as college students head home for the holidays, and encouraging students to get vaccinated against the disease. So far, no cases have been reported in Idaho, but OSU has reported six cases at the University’s Corvallis campus, five known to be caused by serogroup B meningococcal bacteria.
“If you have college students from the Corvallis campus of OSU home for the holiday break, it would be a great idea to check to see if they have been vaccinated against serogroup B meningococcal disease,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director for the Division of Public Health in the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “If not, they should be vaccinated with the MenB vaccine to protect them from the disease, which is very serious and can spread in college settings. It can cause loss of limbs, hearing loss, or brain damage. Even with treatment, up to 15% of people can die from it.”
OSU is now requiring all Corvallis campus students younger than 25 to receive the series of vaccinations against meningococcal serogroup B by February 15, 2018.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the “MenB” vaccine for all people 10 years and older who are at increased risk of serogroup B meningococcal disease. This includes college students on campuses experiencing an outbreak. OSU students who are not sure if they have had the vaccine should talk to their medical providers about it.
Meningococcal disease spreads person-to-person through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by coughing, kissing, and sharing eating utensils. It can lead to meningitis, which is when the membrane around the brain and spinal column is swollen.
Symptoms happen quickly and can include a high fever, chills, lethargy, and a rash. They can also include a stiff neck and headache if meningitis is present. Seizures also could occur. In the worst cases, shock, coma, and death can happen within several hours even with the appropriate medical treatment.
If you have these symptoms, see your medical provider immediately.
- CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/
- DHW: http://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Health/DiseasesConditions/Meningococcal/tabid/738/Default.aspx