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Meningococcal outbreak declared at San Diego State University

With three meningococcal disease cases among San Diego State University undergraduates since June, the county public health department on Friday declared an outbreak on campus.

Announcing the decision in Montezuma Hall just before lunch, officials said all three students have been infected by the “B” type of the meningococcal bacteria that can cause deadly meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

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In early September, the county and the university announced that a female student who lived on campus had been hospitalized after becoming infected. A male student, also living on campus, was hospitalized after he started to show symptoms on Sept. 25. A third student, a female graduate who lived off campus, became sick in June, but that infection occurred during summer break and the student was not attending classes on campus at the time, officials said.

Most students are immunized with a vaccine that covers four different types of the meningococcal bacteria, but not type B.

When the university announced the first case in early September, many on campus lined up to get vaccinated, providing significant protection against future infection.

But vaccination does not ward off infections that are already present, and a person whose nasal passages have been colonized by the bacteria may not get sick right away.

Officials urged the entire campus population to keep their eyes open for symptoms of meningococcal disease, including fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and a rash that does not blanch under pressure.

Anyone with any of these symptoms should take them seriously and seek immediate medical attention.

The bacteria are known to spread more readily on college campuses, moving from person to person through close contact such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes or pipes, water bottles, drugs, kissing or living in close quarters.

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