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SLO County health officials advise on bacterial meningitis after student dies

Posted at 9:16 PM, Feb 15, 2019

New information about the Cuesta College student who died after contracting Bacterial Meningitis was released Friday by school officials.

Cuesta College Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Sanchez confirmed it was a male student who died. Sanchez was not sure of the student’s age, but said he believed the student had recently graduated high school and a traditional freshman at the school.

“Any time you lose a student, it’s very very difficult, like losing a member of the family,” Sanchez said.

The student, whose name has not been released, did not attend class Wednesday because he felt ill, according to Sanchez.

The student was pronounced dead around 2 a.m. Thursday.

“It can be as it was in this case, come on very fast and lead to serious illness or death in a short period of time,” Penny Borenstein M.D. of the San Luis Obispo County Public Health said. “It can be bacterial, virus, fungus, lots of different things. The most serious is bacterial meningitis and that’s what we’ve had in this case.”

Borenstein said Bacterial Meningitis presents flu like symptoms, often accompanied by stiffness of the neck and a rash, and escalates quickly.

“It is rare to have someone die from Meningitis,” Borenstein said. “It’s a very awful, tragic and thankfully uncommon situation.”

Borenstein said SLO County Public Health only records about one or two Bacterial Meningitis each year and a death from the illness is even more rare.

But according to Borenstein, about 10 percent of the general population is a carrier of the disease and does not experience symptoms.

Cuesta officials notified classmates and staff who may have interacted with the sick student and have encouraged them to be checked out.

The student who died was only enrolled in one class that met Monday, Wednesday and Friday, according to Sanchez.

Sanchez said he also recently notified students and staff of resources available to them.

“They have access to our health services department, which is not only acute care or if they’re not feeling well, but also mental health counseling,” Sanchez said.