In a follow-up to a report earlier this week, Santa Clara County health officials learned of a third confirmed case of meningococcal infection in a Santa Clara University student.

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

Like the first two cases, the third case is also confirmed to have the serogroup B strain of the bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis.

According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) ,the students all became ill on Sunday January 31st. As of Thursday morning, two students remain hospitalized and both are listed in fair condition. A third student was discharged in good condition.

SCCPHD continues to work with Santa Clara University to identify students at high risk of infection in order to provide preventive antibiotics to keep them from becoming ill. So far, more than 200 students have received the preventive antibiotics. The antibiotics help protect students exposed to the bacteria from developing disease in the short term. Another important step is for students to get vaccinated.

Vaccination is the best way to help protect students from meningococcal infection with the Serogroup B strain. A Friday vaccination clinic will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  on the Concourse Level of Leavey Center.

The vaccine Bexsero® will be provided at no cost to all Santa Clara University students.

Meningococcal meningitis is causes the most severe form of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can also be found in the bloodstream. This particular type of meningitis is very severe and can result in death if not treated promptly. Even in cases where treatment has been given, the fatality rate is around 15%.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are sudden, with fever, stiff neck, body aches and headaches. As the disease progresses other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, photophobia and seizures. A petechial rash seen on the trunk and lower extremities, bleeding complications, multi-organ failures and shock are usually final signs. This disease has the ability to kill within hours of getting it.

Up to 10-20% of older children and young adults carry this organism inthe mouth and nose, though the carriage rate will vary with age and closeness of population. The majority of people that carry this bacterium have no clinical disease. The organism is spread person to person through respiratory secretions from the nose and mouth (coughing, sneezing and kissing). Experts are unsure why some people advance to meningitis disease while many do not.

Crowded living conditions facilitate the spread of the organism and places like military barracks and college dormitories are well documented areas of concern with this disease.