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Another local college student has meningitis

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SAN DIEGO -- County health officials announced Thursday that a student at Palomar College in San Marcos is recovering from meningococcal bacteria, but there is no known connection between the unidentified patient and a San Diego State University freshman who died Saturday of the bacterial disease.

No one at the community college has reported close contact with the student, who attended only one class in the past three weeks, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

By comparison, county health officials had been concerned about the possible exposure of several hundred students at SDSU, because Sara Stelzer was involved with a sorority and attended two fraternity parties a few days before she displayed symptoms.

“The risk to individuals who have not had close contact with the infected individual is very low,'' said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, of the county's Public Health Services. “Meningococcal disease is spread through close contact with the person infected, but others should be aware of the symptoms so that they may seek care if they develop these symptoms.''

Administrators at Palomar College in San Marcos say they are following protocol and have notified everyone on campus.

"When we received the information we made the effort to inform our campus by sending out an email as quickly as possible informing them of information we'd received, the entire college campus is concerned about the well being, of not only the student how has been infected, but certainly all our students and staff on campus," said Adrian Gonzalez, Palomar College Vice President for Student Services.

There have been seven previous cases of meningococcal disease reported in San Diego County so far this year -- including two deaths. Last year, there were 16 cases. Since 2005, an average of 11 cases have been reported each year in the region.

Symptoms may include fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and a rash that does not blanch under pressure. Anyone with potential exposure who develops any of the symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider or emergency room for evaluation of possible meningococcal disease.

The bacteria can be spread through close contact, such as sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, cigarettes or water bottles. It can also be spread by kissing, smoking and living in close quarters.

The time between exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms can be between two to 10 days.

Individuals who had close contact with a meningitis patient should receive antibiotics to prevent any possible infection, health officials said. Preventive antibiotics are not recommended for people who were not in close contact with the case, but they should be aware of possible symptoms and make sure they have received the recommended vaccination against the disease.

A vaccine is available to prevent certain strains of meningococcal disease and is routinely recommended for children and adolescents 11 to 18 years of age. Families are encouraged to make sure their pre-teen and adolescent children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines, including meningococcal vaccine. Information about vaccines can be found online at http://www.sdiz.org.

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