Monitoring a meningococcal case at UF
Dear University of Florida Community:
A graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease and is currently hospitalized.
The Florida Department of Health and the UF Student Health Care Center are closely monitoring the situation and are taking all precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Additionally, the Health Department has tracked down all those believed to have had contact with the student.
The student is under the best of care. The Alachua County Health Department is notifying those with whom the student has been in contact. Health Department staff also are determining on a case-by-case basis whether preventative (antibiotic) treatment is needed.
Meningococcal disease is a severe infection that is potentially life-threatening if not treated quickly. Common symptoms associated with meningococcal disease are a sudden fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck or a rash. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
Please see below for additional information about meningococcal disease or go to www.cdc.gov/meningococcal.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact the UF Student Health Care Center Immunization Clinic at 352-294-7472 or the Florida Department of Health at 850-245-4444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The safety and well-being of our community remains our top priority; please do not hesitate to contact the Immunization Clinic or the Health department for questions or concerns.
Guy W. Nicolette, MD, CAQSM
Student Health Care Center
University of Florida
About Meningococcal Disease
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis also known as meningococcus. If meningococcus infects the covering of the brain (called “meninges”), meningitis results. The bacteria can also grow in the blood and lead to a severe illness called sepsis.
Where does this bacteria come from? How does it spread?
Anywhere between 5 to 10% of normal, healthy people carry meningococcus in their throat and nose without being ill. These people are considered “colonized”. The bacteria can spread to another person if there is close, direct contact with the fluids from the nose or throat that contain meningococcus. It is not understood why some people can be colonized with meningococcus and remain healthy, but others who become colonized develop meningococcal disease.
Who gets meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is more common in infants and children. Most cases occur in those younger than 5 years of age, and susceptibility decreases with age. College students, particularly those living in dormitories or residence halls, are at modestly increased risk for meningococcal disease compared with persons the same age who are not attending college.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms associated with meningococcal disease are a sudden fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck or a rash. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
How soon do the symptoms appear?
The symptoms may appear 2 to 10 days after exposure, yet usually occur within 5 days.
When and for how long is an infected person able to spread the disease?
An infected person may spread the germ that causes the disease from the time he or she is first infected until the germ is no longer present in discharges from the nose and throat. After treatment with the correct antibiotic for 24 hours, the person is no longer infectious.
Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of meningococcal disease be treated?
People who have been in close contact (household members, intimate contacts, health care personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, day care center playmates, selective school contacts, etc.) should be evaluated for preventive treatment. Such people are usually advised to obtain a prescription for an antibiotic (such as cipro or rifampin) from their health care provider. Casual contact as might occur in an office setting is not significant enough to cause concern. Most school contacts are not at increased risk.
How can I reduce my chances of becoming infected with viruses that can lead to bacterial meningitis?
There are vaccines against most types of meningococcus. These include serogroups A, C, Y and W-135. The vaccines are safe and effective. Notably, one common type of meningococcus, called serogroup B, is not covered in the vaccine currently available in the United States. However, a vaccine that does cover serogroup B is being evaluated by the FDA, and has been used in certain outbreaks on college campuses on a compassionate basis.
Routine hygiene, such as hand washing, covering one’s mouth with one’s elbow when sneezing or coughing, not sharing utensils, drinks, cigarettes, etc, will reduce the chance that meningococcus will spread to another person.