Just a week after the untimely death of San Diego State University (SDSU) freshman, Sara Stelzer, San Diego health officials report a second case of a college student contracting an infection caused by the meningococcal bacteria.

The yet unnamed Palomar College student was treated at a local hospital and is improving. There is no known connection to the recent meningococcal case that resulted in the death of Ms. Stelzer, health officials note.

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

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA)  has already notified anyone who was in close contact with the individual that they should receive antibiotics to prevent any possible infection. There were no close contacts reported at the college as the student had attended only one class in the past three weeks.

“The risk to individuals who have not had close contact with the infected individual is very low,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., of the County’s Public Health Services. “Meningococcal disease is spread through close contact with the person infected, but others should be aware of the symptoms so that they may seek care if they develop these symptoms.”

Related: SDSU student had meningitis serotype B, US vaccines don’t protect against

Health authorities say individuals who experience symptoms should seek medical care promptly. Symptoms may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone with potential exposure who develops any of these symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider or emergency room for evaluation of possible meningococcal disease.

The bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes, or water bottles. It can also be spread by kissing, smoking and living in close quarters. The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days. Individuals who had close contact with the case should receive antibiotics to prevent any possible infection. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for people who were not in close contact with the case, but they should be aware of possible symptoms and make sure they have received the recommended vaccination against the disease.

A vaccine is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease and is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age. Families are encouraged to make sure their pre-teen and adolescent children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines, including meningococcal vaccine.