Health officials in San Luis Obispo County announced yesterday they are investigating a suspected bacterial meningitis death.

 Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC
Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC

A student living in San Luis Obispo and attending Cuesta College has died from presumed bacterial meningitis. Laboratory testing to confirm this diagnosis is underway.

The Public Health Department is working with local hospitals, Cuesta College and people close to the student to identify any individuals who may have potential risk of infection. Those individuals are receiving preventive antibiotics.

Preventive antibiotics are recommended for people who have had close contact with a meningococcus case. This include people who were exposed to the ill person’s respiratory and throat secretions through kissing, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or other prolonged very close contact.

“This loss is devastating for everyone involved,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, Health Officer of the County of San Luis Obispo. “Our hearts go out to the family, friends, and everyone who cared about this young person.”

Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis usually include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It can start with symptoms similar to flu, and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, rash, confusion and increased sensitivity to light.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of bacterial meningitis should seek medical care immediately. Early treatment is critical as the infection can quickly become life-threatening.

Two types of vaccines are available to protect against bacterial meningitis, and many high school and college students receive at least one of these vaccines.