Meningitis Precursor Kills College Student

February 25, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A bacterial precursor to meningitis has been blamed for the death of a University of Oregon (UO) student, and now a University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) student is recuperating in the hospital from the same type of infection.

A bacterial precursor to meningitis has been blamed for the death of a University of Oregon (UO) student, and now a University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) student is recuperating in the hospital from the same type of infection.

Lauren Jones, a freshman student-athlete at UO, died on February 17, 2015, from meningococcemia infection, according to a statement from the school. She had been a member of UO’s acrobatics and tumbling team, and in a statement from her coach, Jones was described as a positive and bright-spirited woman with a contagious smile.

UO said in a statement that its health center was vaccinating students daily upon request, following the death of Jones, who was 18. Three other UO students have contracted meningococcemia in the past few months, though the school reported that they are all recovering.

Despite those confirmed cases, the university’s meningococcal disease transmission risk is still considered low, according to UO. One of the reasons why is that the bacteria cannot survive very long outside the body and are typically transmitted if an infected patient is in close contact with another person for 4 or more hours over 1 week.

“The current infection concerns at [UO] are a reminder of the threat meningococcal infection plays in an otherwise healthy and young population,” David T. Bearden, PharmD, a clinical associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Oregon State University, told Pharmacy Times in an exclusive interview.

To help protect against the type B serogroup of Neisseria meningitidis responsible for the 4 meningococcal cases on its campus, UO is offering “mass vaccination clinics” from March 2 to March 5, 2015, where students will be able to receive the meningococcal B vaccine, Trumenba, at the university’s health center, Knight Arena, 1 of 15 Albertsons or Safeway pharmacies, or 1 of 7 Walgreens.

Dr. Bearden explained that vaccines for that serogroup have not always been available to college students, as they are relatively new.

He also noted that pharmacists could be especially influential in helping students avoid meningococcemia infection.

“Pharmacists can play a direct role in helping vaccinate at-risk students, with community and student health pharmacies playing an active role in widespread immunization efforts during the present Oregon outbreak,” Dr. Bearden told Pharmacy Times. “Community pharmacies continue to provide a variety of vaccines across the country and are an important and accessible partner in public health.”

Meanwhile, at UC Davis, those in close contact with an infected student were advised to take preventive antibiotics. Health officials at Yolo County and UC Davis said antibiotic prophylaxis was not recommended for the general public.

Patients with meningococcal meningitis experience swelling and infection of their meninges, or the membranes covering their brain and spinal cord, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This causes some patients to experience sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck.

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and altered mental status. These symptoms may develop 3 to 7 days following exposure.