For the fourth time in a year, an Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis student has contracted meningococcal disease, according to OSU Student Health.

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

The Benton County Health Department says an OSU Corvallis undergraduate student is being treated for meningococcal disease. Testing results indicate the infection was the serogroup B meningococcal disease.

“We understand that any news about meningococcal disease is concerning,” said Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations at Oregon State University. “We are doing all that we can to ensure our students have access to important information about meningitis symptoms and to vaccines to prevent the disease. Meanwhile, our thoughts and support are with our ill student for a full recovery and return to school.”

Meningococcal disease is not highly contagious and is transmitted through direct contact with droplets from an ill person coughing or sneezing; other discharges from the nose or throat; or by sharing of eating and drinking utensils, smoking devices; or intimate contact. Those at highest risk include students age 25 and younger who live in on-campus housing or are members of – or visit – fraternal living groups associated with the university.

The Benton County Health Department is working with OSU officials, local medical providers and state public health officials to continue to identify and contact anyone who may have had enough close exposure to require preventive antibiotic treatment. Officials want to make sure that close contacts get antibiotics to keep them from getting sick.

“Students must be vigilant about monitoring their health,” said Bill Emminger, Benton County Health Department. “Catching early signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease can be a crucial factor in prevention.”

The best way to prevent meningococcal disease is by vaccination. Oregon State requires incoming students under the age of 22 to have the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, which covers multiple strains of the disease but not the B strain. Starting this fall, the university also began requiring incoming students age 25 and under to receive the meningococcal B vaccine series.

The school will be having a Meningococcal B Immunization Clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at the Memorial Union Multi-Purpose Room 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Signs that someone might have meningococcal disease may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, exhaustion, nausea, rash, and vomiting. Meningococcal disease may lead to meningitis, an infection of the fluids that line the brain and spinal cord. A blood infection usually causes fever and a rash. Individuals who are at highest risk for getting the disease are those who have spent at least four hours in close, face-to-face time with a person infected with meningococcal disease.