Conditions of UC Riverside staff member infected with meningitis improving
Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
Issue 50, Volume 17.
The condition of a University of California Riverside staff member who was infected with meningitis has improved according to Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, Health Officer with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He could not confirm whether the person has been released from the hospital or not but said that DNA tests for the potentially deadly bacteria came back negative.
"The DNA test is the ultimate test you can do, this person has some type of meningitis, we're not sure if it is viral or bacterial," said Ohikhuare, adding that the person was on antibiotics prior to becoming sick with meningitis, and that, could be the reason for the negative result.
"The antibiotics prior to the meningitis could've masked the results of this lab test or treated him, or maybe it was negative because it's viral, either way, there is nobody else that came down with it (meningitis), which means it wasn't contagious," said Ohikhuare.
Ohikhuare said that the county has had several cases but nothing to "panic" over.
Active case of meningitis puts staff and students on alert at UC Riverside
An employee at UC Riverside has an active case of bacterial meningitis, the university confirmed late Monday night, Dec. 9 through a press release.
The university did not disclose the name of the employee or his/her role at the institution, but the communication did stress that while the "risk of transmission is low, it is best to take precautions." Iqbal Pittalwala, media officer with UCR, said that all students who came in contact with the staff member were contacted.
Barbara Cole, CDC Director with the Riverside County of Department of Public Health also confirmed the information but not everything about this particular case is known, "The physicians do say it's bacterial meningitis but we don't have an identification of the organism." And she says that the person infected is not a resident of Riverside County but there have been cases in the county.
"Since January, year to date there have been 21 cases of bacterial meningitis," Cole adds that the most recent case was reported December 5 of this year.
Riverside County Confirmed Cases of Bacterial Meningitis:
Year to date: 21
This warning comes as Princeton University is in the process of vaccinating thousands of students against the contagious and potentially deadly disease following an outbreak that hasinfected at least eight students. The more troubling report came out of UC Santa Barbara. Doctors were forced to amputate the feet of an 18-year-old lacrosse player after he suffered complications from the infection. He is one of four students confirmed to be infected with the disease at UCSB.
The CDC says that every year there are about 800-1500 cases of meningitis in the United States. And there is currently no vaccine that protects from the meningococcal type B, the same strain seen in these university outbreaks in the US. This is why the students in New Jersey are being treated with a vaccine not approved in the states, a rare recommendation issued by the CDC to try and stop the outbreak.
The CDC says the disease is not as contagious as the flu, and close, prolonged contact with someone infected is necessary to pass the bacterial infection to another person. Most cases are treated with antibiotics and are resolved without major complications, when caught quickly. Usually doctors will also treat family members and others who came in close contact with the infected patient, just to be safe.
The symptoms to look out for usually appear in a span of about three to seven days and include: fever, stiff neck, headache, sensitivity to light and nausea. The disease causes the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to swell. If the symptoms are ignored, the bacteria can cause several disabilities including: brain damage, hearing loss and sometimes death.
Cole says it's important to be seen by a doctor because once the disease is diagnosed, knowing the type of bacteria will determine treatment and says while completely isolating a family member who has been diagnosed with meningitis is not always possible, there are some precautions that can be taken to avoid getting sick, "If someone is infected, they should try and avoid contact with others so that they don't spread it to others. If someone in the home is diagnosed, they should avoid sharing personal items: toothbrush, cup ..."
For more information on this and other strains of meningitis, the Centers for Disease Control's website, www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial, is a great resource. But if you or someone you know comes down with one or two symptoms of this disease, and are not sure if you're infected, don't ignore them or try to diagnose it and treat it yourself. Contact your doctor immediately.
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