Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, but can also be caused by physical injury, cancer or certain drugs.
Neisseria meningitidis is a bacterium that causes meningitis and other serious infections. The 6 subtypes of these bacteria are responsible for most meningococcal disease worldwide. Type B causes approximately 50% of the cases in Oregon and is suspected to be the cause of the most recent outbreak in Eugene (2015). Four cases of Meningococcemia have been confirmed at the University of Oregon. The fourth case, which resulted in the death of a student was confirmed on Friday, February 20, 2015.
SHOULD I BE VACCINATED or DO I NEED ANOTHER VACCINATION?
Many people have already received a 4-strain vaccine as adolescents, however there are 2 Type B vaccines that were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015. The newer subtype B vaccines compliment the 4-strain vaccine, so this new vaccine offers additional coverage. The U of O recommends both vaccines for maximum protection.
The University of Oregon has begun to offer Type B vaccinations and prophylaxis to its students. South Hilyard Clinic and Lane County Public Health does not have Type B vaccinations at this time, as residents that do not attend the University of Oregon are at extremely low risk of contracting the illness. The recommended vaccine is only for use in 10-25 years of age. If you are out of that age range, and have had contact you will need to be treated with medication. Contact the U of O student health center.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and early symptoms are not easily recognized and are difficult to distinguish from other more common infections like the flu. These include:
Students who notice these symptoms (in themselves, friends, or others), should contact the University Health Center at 541-346-2770.
If the symptoms are unusually sudden or severe, they should consider going directly to a local emergency room.
HOW IT SPREADS
Meningococcus spreads by coughing, sneezing, or close personal contact, such as sharing drinks or kissing. It is less contagious than the common cold or flu.
Close contact includes:
New vaccines that protect against type B meningococcus are now available. The University of Oregon Health Center has a limited supply of type B vaccine. Public Health and the University are arranging for additional vaccine to provide widespread vaccination coverage for students.
You can lower your risk of infection by washing your hands, not sharing cigarettes or eating utensils, and not drinking from a bottle, cup or straw used by someone else. Smoking increases the risk of meningococcal infection.