Palomar student has same meningitis strain that killed SDSU student

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Meningitis

SAN DIEGO — A Palomar College student who is recovering from a bout with meningococcal bacteria has the same strain that killed a San Diego State University freshman, county health officials said Friday.

The county HHSA reported that results from testing in a state lab showed the unidentified student at the community college in San Marcos had a strain belonging to serotype B. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine commonly given to youth in the U.S. does not normally protect against serotype B. However, a vaccine used overseas that does control the strain helped control outbreaks last year at Princeton University and UC Santa Barbara.

There remains no known connection between the Palomar student, who attended only one class in the last three weeks, and 18-year-old Sara Stelzer, who died at a hospital last Saturday, according to the HHSA.

The agency said the vaccine used to control serotype B won’t be administered because the CDC’s standard of two infections in the same location within six months was not met.

At Palomar, no one has reported close contact with the student.

By comparison, county health officials had been concerned about the possible exposure of several hundred students at SDSU, because 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.”

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

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