Deadly Disease Continues to Spread Among UCSB Students

Public Health Officials confirmed this week that a fourth UCSB student has contracted meningococcal disease — which can lead to the potentially-fatal illness meningitis, making Santa Barbara just one of two locations nationwide to experience infections of meningococcal disease and meningitis.

An infection of membranes surrounding the central nervous system, meningococcal disease kills roughly 1 in 10 people who contract it, according to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC. As the bacterial infection is highly contagious and can spread through respiratory and throat secretions, school officials have sent out multiple warnings against students attending social events where alcohol consumption, smoking and other close personal contact could occur. As of this week, the Interfraternity Council has also decided to cancel fundraising and social events hosted by the Pan-Hellenic community for the rest of the quarter.

Interfraternity Council President Carl Provenzano, third-year biopsychology major, said the Greek community has largely supported curtailing social events due to the serious danger the disease presents.

“Everyone’s been pretty cautious about going out … [and] pretty timid of social events,” Provenzano said. “So everyone’s kind of been on the same page, in terms of creating a consensus in the community that [we should] take two weeks off before break so that this can kind of break apart and disperse.”

One of the infected students is a member of Provenzano’s own fraternity — Alpha Tau Omega — and will remain in the hospital to receive additional treatment after also recently contracting pneumonia, according to Provenzano.

At UCSB, three male students and one female student became infected in November with meningococcal strain B, for which there is currently no approved vaccine in the U.S. The patient in the first case has had both feet amputated as a result of the disease.

The meningitis B outbreak at UCSB follows the news of eight students becoming infected by the same bacterial strain of a different genetic fingerprint at Princeton University. Students at Princeton were treated Monday with an imported vaccination called Bexsero, which has only been approved in Europe and Australia. So far, officials have not recommended treating UCSB students with the vaccine.

Student Health Director Dr. Mary Ferris said the difficulty in diagnosing meningococcal disease, along with its rapid onset, has complicated addressing public concern about the outbreak.

“We can’t be entirely reassuring because of the terrible nature of this disease,” Ferris said in an email. “All we can do is be honest about the danger and do everything we know to reduce the risk. But for many people, that is not satisfactory and they don’t understand why we can’t eliminate it entirely.”

Five hundred students identified as “close contacts” of those infected were originally given prophylactic treatment in late November. According to Ferris, The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has investigated each case of meningococcal disease and obtained advice from the State Public Health Department and the CDC. This week, school health officials identified a group of 735 students to receive more preventive antibiotic doses, and will continue to offer flu shots and shots for other meningitis strains.

According to Ferris, school health officials will continue to collaborate with Public Health officials and the CDC to “explore all control strategies” until they are confident the outbreak has come to a stop.
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of December 5, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

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  1. Cristina Lete says:

    The government’s response at UCSB versus their response to the Princeton outbreak is baffling. The official word from the CDC is that the Princeton outbreak hasn’t dwindled after 8 months…their strategy boils down to waiting to see how many more kids at UCSB get sick, perhaps losing more limbs or even their lives, before initiating a vaccine campaign there. The strain of serotype B is known by the CDC to be a susceptible strain, ST32. In fact the Princeton strain, ST409 is LESS susceptible. Why the preferential treatment at Princeton? More influential advocates with insider access to the workings of the FDA and the CDC perhaps? I have yet to hear a cogent argument for withholding this potentially life saving vaccine from the UCSB community. Where are the advocates for our students? Henry Yang? Janet Napolitano? Mary Ferris? I believe that the conditions for an IND approval from the FDA exist at the UCSB campus, and I demand that our students have access to this potentially lifesaving vaccine immediately.

  2. Our hearts and support go out to those affected by the terrible effects of meningitis. The Meningitis Foundation of America offers extensive information regarding diagnosis, immunization, recovery and the after effects of meningitis. MFA survives primarily by donations. For the past 16 years, we have assisted people through support groups, resources and advocacy in efforts to help those affected with meningitis overcome and those around them understand the journey ahead. We promote prevention and safety measure in at risk communities and help explain the short term, long term effects and recovery treatments of meningitis to the media and public at large. Meningitis is a dangerous & often times fatal infection that can lead to serious life-long physical problems and even death. We are here to provide emotional support to those who need it; please feel free to reach out to us at and
    Daisi Pollard Sepúlveda-Low
    National President
    Meningitis Foundation of America, Inc.
    World Meningitis Day 24 April

  3. The Alliance to Teach designates the St Michaels Warning Center ORANGE/ RISKY
    For more information follow

  4. The UC has failed to fairly negotiate a labor contract for well over a year with the custodians who are being told to clean more. The UC needs to stop worrying about their ability to screw already low paid workers and sign a contract immediately. Dwayne Duckett, the University’s VP in charge of union busting is being paid over $300,000. That is simply obscene.

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