Local News

Nov 24, 2009 12:49 AM by Ariel Wesler

Cuesta College student diagnosed with meningitis

San Luis Obispo County health officials have diagnosed a Cuesta College student with bacterial meningitis, a rare, but sometimes fatal infection. The student is a 19-year old man. He is undergoing treatment at Sierra Vista hospital. Students on campus have been notified of the situation by email and on the school's web site.

The student's identity has not been released due to privacy laws, but school administrators say his condition is improving.

It's the first case of meningitis ever reported on the Cuesta College campus.

"We're cautioning people to wash their hands often, cover their coughs, use sanitation cleaners for their hands," said Dr. Linda Fontanilla, Vice President of Student Services.

San Luis Obispo county averages three cases of bacterial meningitis per year. Nationwide, it kills about 125 people. Health officials say efforts are underway to identify and treat students who were in close contact with the teen.

"Sitting in a classroom, the health department has advised us that our students are not at high risk," Fontanilla said.

The infection spreads mainly through saliva--sharing drinks, utensils, and kissing. Early symptoms tend to mimic the flu such as a fever, headache or stiffness and can include a rash.

"The swine flu's been going around, but I haven't been affected by that, so it looks like one case of menangitis would really hit me that hard," said James Galt, a freshman at Cuesta.

"One of my friends actually died from meningitis, so it's kind of a scary thought. I mean, you don't really worry about those things until you hear about them," said student Heather Daenitz.

The health department says those between the ages of 17 and 20 have a higher rate of contracting the infection than the general population.

Currently, Californiat law require any college or university that offers housing to provide information to incoming freshman, but getting vaccinated for the infection is not mandatory.

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