Palomar College Student Hospitalized With Meningococcal Bacteria

A new case of a college student hospitalized with meningococcal bacteria was reported Thursday in San Diego County.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) reports the patient is a student at Palomar College.

The county did not disclose which hospital was treating the individual, but they say the student is improving.

The unidentified student was diagnosed on October 19. Test results expected back in several days should identify the strain of meningitis.

The student has attended only one class in the past three weeks so there are no close contacts at the college, county officials said.

“The risk to individuals who have not had close contact with the infected individual is very low,” Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., said in a county news report.

HHSA has already notified those people who they believe should take antibiotics to prevent any possible infection.

This case is not believed to be connected to the recent meningococcal case that led to the death of San Diego State University freshman Sara Stelzer.

Stelzer was removed from life support over the weekend after contracting the rare Type B meningococcal meningitis.

Nearly 1,000 SDSU students were evaluated for risk of exposure. Some were given preventive antibiotics according to health officials.

However, officials are trying to determine if the Palomar student has the same strain of meningococcal bacterium as Stelzer's.

"Because if we identify two meningococcal Type B in a small community, we can consider asking for experimental use of the meningococcal Type B disease that’s not available in the United States," said Sidelinger.

To get the experimental vaccine MenB, used in Europe and Canada, there must be two or more cases identified to one organizational unit, like a college campus, and the cases must be within the last six months.

The vaccine has not been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did allow it to be used in meningitis outbreaks at Princeton and UC Santa Barbara.

There have been seven cases of meningococcal disease in San Diego County this year. Last year, there were 16 cases reported.

Symptoms of infection by meningococcal bacteria may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and a rash that does not blanch under pressure, officials said.

If not treated, the bacteria can lead to meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes around the spinal cord and brain.

The germs are easily spread by those in close contact through sharing drinks or water bottles, cigarettes or through more intimate activity like kissing.

Parents should consult their primary care physician for information on a vaccine that is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease. It's routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age.

Click here to find out more information about vaccine-preventable diseases.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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