Current SDSU Meningococcal B Outbreak Information
For the second time this semester, a San Diego State University (SDSU) undergraduate student has been hospitalized with serogroup B meningococcal disease, prompting the San Diego County public health officer to determine an outbreak on campus.
The most recent case is a male undergraduate student who became symptomatic with meningitis on Sept. 25. Testing done at the California Department of Public Health identified the illness to be due to serogroup B meningococcus. The same bacteria hospitalized a female undergraduate—the second case—earlier this month. Close contacts of the new case have been identified and provided antibiotics to prevent illness. There is no need for antibiotics for those who were not in direct contact with this student. The third case is a female SDSU undergraduate, who was not attending classes and lived off campus, and occurred in June during the summer break. This case was also caused by the same serogroup of the bacteria. There was no potential exposure as school was not in session.
County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., is recommending that all unimmunized SDSU undergraduate students 23 years of age and younger get vaccinated with one of two available meningococcal B vaccines. SDSU graduate students, open university students, staff, faculty and visitors are not currently recommended to get the vaccination.
HHSA and SDSU Student Health Services are working together to facilitate vaccinations for undergraduate students. Arrangements are currently underway to have vaccine clinics on campus to provide the Bexsero® meningococcal B vaccine (see clinics listed below). Students with insurance should check with their health plans to determine where to go for vaccination, which is available at many pharmacies and clinics. Students should call ahead to be sure the vaccine is in stock.
Two vaccination clinics were held at Viejas Arena on the SDSU campus on Oct. 5 and Oct. 8. More clinics are being planned, to be held around the SDSU campus. Please contact the SDSU Student Health Services for more information:
These clinics are only for current SDSU students 23 years of age and younger. Students with insurance should check with their health plans to find out where they can go to get vaccinated.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is happening at SDSU?
Three (3) undergraduate SDSU students have been diagnosed with serogroup B meningococcal disease over the past few months. Because the disease can be so serious and there is a vaccine to prevent it, SDSU and the San Diego County Public Health Officer recommend that all undergraduate SDSU students who are 23 years of age and younger, who have not been vaccinated for serogroup B meningococcal disease, get the vaccine as soon as possible.
- Why are only SDSU undergraduate students 23 years of age and younger being recommended to receive serogroup B meningococcal disease?
National guidance states that serogroup B vaccine may be given to persons 16 to 23 years of age as part of routine vaccination, in consultation with a healthcare provider. Additionally, there have been no college campus outbreaks of serogroup B involving students over the age of 23. The three recently diagnosed cases at SDSU were less than 24 years of age.
- What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection that typically causes symptoms of meningitis (brain infection) and/or septicemia (bloodstream infection).
- What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?
The most common symptoms are high fever, chills, lethargy, and possibly a rash. If meningitis is present, symptoms also include severe headache and neck stiffness; seizures may also occur. Symptoms usually develop 3 to 4 days after exposure, with a range of 2 to 10 days.
- How serious is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease caused by any serogroup is very serious. About 15% of people with the disease die, even with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Of those who recover, up to 20% suffer from some serious after-effects, such as permanent hearing loss, limb loss, or brain damage.
- Is there a treatment for meningococcal disease?
Yes. Doctors treat meningococcal disease with specific types of antibiotics. It is important that treatment start as soon as possible. If a doctor suspects meningococcal disease, they will give the patient antibiotics right away. Antibiotics help reduce the risk of dying.
- What should I do if I think I’m having symptoms of meningococcal disease?
You should seek medical attention right away. If you are an SDSU student, do not go to Student Health Services, your family doctor, or an urgent care clinic. Instead, it is important to promptly go to the nearest hospital emergency department to be medically evaluated. Early treatment is essential.
- What causes meningococcal disease?
The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis are the cause of meningococcal disease. Four serogroups (C, W, Y and B) cause most cases of meningococcal disease in the United States. Because most current college students have been vaccinated against serogroups A, C, W-135, and Y, the cause of recent meningococcal disease outbreaks on college campuses has been serogroup B.
- How is meningococcal disease spread?
The bacteria are spread by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria. Examples include kissing, coughing, sharing water bottles, drinking cups, cigarettes, lip balm, or eating utensils. The bacteria are more easily spread in crowded settings, such as at parties and bars, and in residential settings such as dormitories and military barracks.
- How is meningococcal disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis is usually made by taking samples of blood and spinal fluid from a person who is sick. Spinal fluid is obtained by performing a lumbar puncture, where a needle is inserted into the lower back. The bacteria that causes meningococcal disease can be found in blood or spinal fluid that is examined at a medical laboratory.
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and infections of the blood. Meningococcal disease often occurs without warning — even among people who are otherwise healthy.
Meningococcal disease can spread from person to person through close contact (coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially among people living in the same household.
There are at least 12 types of N. meningitidis, called “serogroups.” Serogroups A, B, C, W, and Y cause most meningococcal disease.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease but certain people are at increased risk, including:
- Infants younger than one year old
- Adolescents and young adults 16 through 23 years old
- People with certain medical conditions that affect the immune system
- Microbiologists who routinely work with isolates of N. meningitidis
- People at risk because of an outbreak in their community
Even when it is treated, meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15 infected people out of 100. And of those who survive, about 10 to 20 out of every 100 will suffer disabilities such as hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, amputations, nervous system problems, or severe scars from skin grafts.
Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccines can help prevent meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B. Other meningococcal vaccines are recommended to help protect against serogroups A, C, W, and Y.