La Costa Canyon graduate Aaron Loy is proof that life can change in an instant.
Loy was one of four UC Santa Barbara students who contracted the meningococcus bacterium last month. Doctors amputated both of his feet to stop the spread of the disease. The freshman lacrosse player remains at a San Diego hospital.
Family friend Dallas Hartley is in disbelief.
“I sat with Mike Loy watching Santa Barbara play Cal Poly just three weeks ago,” Hartley said. “Watching Aaron play on the field, scoring goals. Just watching him in his element as a lacrosse player.”
Meningococcus causes Type B meningitis, a strain not covered by the meningitis vaccine given in the U.S.
Type B is also to blame for a meningitis outbreak at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.
“When people gather from many different parts of the country and live together, as they do in the military or on college campuses or at camps, that puts them at risk of bacteria from other parts of the country they haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, Deputy Public Health Officer for the County of San Diego.
McDonald said infants, teens and young adults are most at-risk for complications from meningitis. Type B meningitis comes on rapidly and can be especially dangerous.
“Someone who’s young and healthy one day can within 24 hours be dead from this illness,” he said.
According to McDonald, San Diego typically sees 7-19 meningitis cases each year. There have been 15 cases in 2013. The county gives antibiotics to people who have been in close contact with the infected person.
UCSB has given antibiotics to 500 students as a precaution. Princeton even distributed a vaccine not approved in the U.S., but used in Europe where Type B is more common.
NBC 7 talked to students at UC San Diego, and most said they would be interested in taking a preventative vaccine.
“It’s definitely in the back of my head,” UCSD junior George Alcaraz said. “Knowing that there’s a vaccine that will get approved just for those campuses that do have outbreaks kind of eases your mind a little bit.”
McDonald says standard healthy habits, like hand washing, can prevent meningitis; no special precautions need to be taken.
As for Loy, Hartley says he has the right personality to overcome this illness.
“He’s everybody’s favorite player on the team. He’s a nice kid. When you think about Aaron, you think about his smile,” Hartley said.
“He’s a fighter.”
To donate to Aaron Loy’s recovery efforts:
Aaron Loy Recovery Fund
Pacific Premier Bank
781 Garden View Court, Suite 100
Encinitas, CA 92024