San Diego County health officials determined Friday that there is an outbreak of meningococcal disease on the campus of San Diego State University after a second case was confirmed this semester.

The most recent case is a male undergraduate student who became symptomatic with meningitis on Sept. 25.  Testing done at the California Department of Public Health identified the illness to be due to serogroup B meningococcus, the same bacteria that hospitalized a female undergraduate earlier this month.

Close contacts of the new case have been identified and provided antibiotics to prevent illness. There is no need for antibiotics for those who were not in direct contact.

A third case is a female SDSU undergraduate, who was not attending classes and lived off campus, and occurred in June during the summer break. This case was also caused by the same serogroup of the bacteria.

County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., is recommending that all unimmunized SDSU undergraduate students under the age of 24 get vaccinated with one of two available meningococcal B vaccines.

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

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck and/or a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone with potential exposure who develops any of these symptoms should immediately contact a health care provider or emergency room for an evaluation for possible meningococcal disease.

The bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes or pipes, or water bottles; kissing; and living in close quarters. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days.

Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for individuals who were not in close contact with the infected person and do not have symptoms. They should be aware of possible symptoms and make sure they have received the recommended vaccination against the disease.

Ten cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in San Diego County this year, the highest number reported since 2013. Serogroup B accounts for six of the ten cases reported in 2018.