For the third time in less than a month, the University of Oregon has reported a student who has tested positive for meningococcal disease. The latest case was diagnosed with Neisseria meningococcemia on Sunday, February 8, 2015.

Oregon map Image/ National Atlas of the United States
Oregon map
Image/ National Atlas of the United States

This follows cases reported in mid-January and one week ago.

University of Oregon staff members have been working closely with Lane County Public Health officials to identify individuals who may have had extended exposure to the patient. According to Lane County Public Health, the risk of transmission is considered to be quite low. In order for the illness to spread, a person would need to have close contact with the patient for four hours or more over the past seven days.

The University has identified specific individuals who may have had extended exposure to the patient. Those who have had close contact of at least 4 hours cumulatively within one week are being provided with a preventative medication to further reduce their risk of becoming ill.

According to Jason Davis with the Lane County Health and Human Services, a male student that was diagnosed this week and a female student diagnosed on Feb. 3 both received early treatment and were expected to recover quickly, Davis said, but a female student diagnosed on Jan. 16 has had more difficulty recovering.

“Time will tell if she experiences long-term ramifications from the disease,” he added.

In addition to Oregon, Providence College and Yale University have reported meningococcal meningitis cases in recent weeks.

Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström
Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

The National Meningitis Association notes that several of the students were diagnosed with meningitis serogroup B. In fact, Providence College organized an on-campus vaccine clinic to protect students against serogroup B. Two different vaccines are available to protect against the disease:

  • The quadrivalent vaccine protects against four major strains of the meningococcal bacteria: A, C, W and Y. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends this vaccine at age 11-12 with a booster at age 16.
  • Two monovalent serogroup B vaccines were recently approved in the US for ages 10 to 25 years. The CDC has not yet issued a routine recommendation for these vaccines.

“We encourage all college students to make sure they are up-to-date with the currently recommended vaccines, including the booster before they leave for college,” said Lynn Bozof, President of NMA. “Parents and students should also speak to their healthcare providers about the new vaccines to protect against serogroup B, which we hope will soon be recommended to protect all adolescents.”

Meningococcal disease can affect people at any age. Infants are at the highest risk for getting the disease. Disease rates fall through later childhood but begin to rise again in early adolescence, peaking between the ages of 15 and 20 years.

Due to lifestyle factors, such as crowded living situations, bar patronage, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, and sharing of personal items, college students living in residence halls are more likely to acquire meningococcal disease than the general college population.

Read more about the 2014 meningitis B outbreaks HERE