2 Santa Clara University students test positive for meningococcal infections

Two Santa Clara University students have been hospitalized with meningococcal infections, according to school officials, and efforts are underway to identify other possible cases of the life-threatening illness.

Both undergraduate students tested positive for infection by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, Dean of Students Jeanne Rosenberger said in a letter to students and staff Wednesday. 

One student began exhibiting symptoms Sunday and was taken to an area hospital, where tests confirmed meningococcal meningitis, serogroup B — an infection of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

On Tuesday, county health officials learned that a second student had been hospitalized with a confirmed bloodstream infection of Neisseria meningitidis.

“We share the university community’s concern and join the students’ friends and family in wishing for a quick recovery,” the health department said in a separate letter to students and staff.

The bacteria are carried in the throat and spread through close contact with an infected person’s saliva or mucous. Infections are commonly spread among those living in close quarters, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria cannot live outside the body for more than a few minutes, and can be treated with antibiotics.

Infections can spread to the bloodstream or to the protective covering that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Patients who develop an infection of the brain and spinal cord membrane can develop a sudden and severe fever, headache and stiff neck, health officials said. They may also suffer nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light.

Symptoms of a blood infection, or septicemia, include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, cold hands and feet, chills, severe muscle aches and rapid breathing. A dark purple or red rash may also develop.

"Individuals with these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention," the health department said.

University staff members are working with health officials to identify students who have come into contact with the ill students in the past several days. The students will be screened for possible exposure or symptoms and will be given antibiotics if needed.

The university and the health department are planning to administer vaccinations for Meningitis B on Thursday and Friday.

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