UC Riverside staff member hospitalized with meningitis

File: Students from the University of California-Riverside, walk the campus Wednesday, June 2, 2010.
File: Students from the University of California-Riverside, walk the campus Wednesday, June 2, 2010.
Reed Saxon/AP

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A University of California, Riverside employee who fell ill with bacterial meningitis remains hospitalized, but his condition is said to be improving after previously being placed in intensive care. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports the employee is a student advisor.

University officials said that as many as two dozen people may have come into contact with the employee.

“There are other people who were in the same room as our staff member in the days before he fell ill,” UC Riverside spokeswoman Kris Lovekin told KPCC. “That does not mean that they are at risk or exposed. ... We’ve given them a heads up about symptoms and to be especially careful in these next couple of weeks here to take care of themselves.”

The university has advised staff and faculty to clean their offices. Vaccines and antibiotics for the disease have also been made available for students at the campus health center. Staff and faculty are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

Lovekin noted that meningitis isn't as easily communicated as a cold or flu. The symptoms of meningitis include headache, stiff neck, high fever and a rash, Lovekin said.

"Fever is prominent. In addition, headache, photophobia — that is, bright lights bother people — in addition to fever, nausea, sometimes diarrhea, aches all over, pain," Dr. T. Warner Hudson of the UCLA Health System told KPCC. "Depending upon whether the disease is more localized in the meninges — the covering of the brain — or whether it's more bloodborne and systemic."

Hudson recommended that, if someone is showing symptoms, they should go immediately to their doctor or an emergency room, as it's important for antibiotics to be administered quickly. Hudson said there have been cases where people have died 17 hours after the onset of symptoms.

There are no other cases at UC Riverside. But over the last few weeks, UC Santa Barbara has been dealing with its own meningitis outbreak. Four cases have been confirmed there. One student had to have his feet amputated. Princeton also had a recent meningitis outbreak.

Hudson said that the vaccine currently commercially available in the United States doesn't cover the type B that afflicted Princeton and UC Santa Barbara, so the Centers for Disease Control has imported vaccine to offer to students living in dormitories at Princeton, as well as those with certain medical conditions.

It's unclear why college students are so at risk, but reasons include their age and living in close quarters, Hudson said. Vaccine is also offered to military recruits for the same reason, he added.

There were 480 cases in 2012 nationally, with 160 of type B as seen at these schools, Hudson said. Bacterial meningitis is more serious than viral meningitis, Hudson said.
“The types [of meningitis] that have been seen at UC Santa Barbara and at Princeton are both the serogroup — or type B,” Hudson said. “Typically type B occurs more often in infants, but the type B cases that have occurred at Princeton and at UC Santa Barbara are type B. They are not related to each other by genetic fingerprint. ... They are different clusters."