Dec. 20, 2017
Health officials urge undergraduates to be vaccinated during winter break
Health officials today reported a sixth case of meningococcal disease infecting a student enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and are encouraging undergraduate students during winter break to receive vaccinations for meningococcal B disease.
“Oregon State University takes the health and welfare of its students, employees and the general public very seriously,” said Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations and marketing.
“Effective immediately, Oregon State University will require all of its Corvallis students 25 and younger to be vaccinated for meningococcal B disease by Feb. 15,” he said. “Prior to this latest case, vaccinations were encouraged for all OSU students 25 years and under, but required for all incoming first-year students and transfer students.”
Paul Cieslak, MD, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, said, “In light of the university’s new vaccination requirement, most OSU students remain unvaccinated and their time over the holidays might be the best opportunity for them to be vaccinated.”
The latest case is a 21-year-old Oregon State undergraduate student enrolled at the Corvallis campus who was hospitalized Dec. 17 with meningitis while visiting family members. Preliminary tests found meningococcal disease to be the probable cause, and further testing is underway to determine whether it is the same strain of meningococcal bacteria that caused the other OSU cases.
“We offer our thoughts, concern and wishes for a speedy and full recovery for this student and for their family,” Clark said.
If confirmed to be meningococcal B, it would be the sixth case of the disease at OSU’s Corvallis campus since November 2016, and the third since October.
OHA epidemiologists on Tuesday distributed a statewide alert urging health care providers and pharmacists to encourage vaccination and to take every opportunity to vaccinate all OSU undergraduate students age 25 and younger with a series of serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.
Winter break, which began Dec. 9 for Oregon State, continues through Jan. 7.
“We ask that health care providers consider meningococcal disease in their diagnosis when college students, particularly those with links to OSU, show up with unexplained high fever, headache, stiff neck or rash, and report any suspected cases promptly to their local public health department,” Cieslak said.
OHA epidemiologists are supporting OSU, Benton County and other local public health departments around the state in investigating the case, including identifying and treating individuals with whom the student had close contact in recent days. Members of the student’s immediate family have been treated with preventive antibiotics.
The latest illness shows the disease still is a cause for serious concern in and around the OSU Corvallis campus community, Cieslak says, and until students are vaccinated, they remain at risk of the potentially deadly disease.
Two brands of meningococcal B vaccines are licensed in the United States, and they are not interchangeable:
- Bexsero, a two-dose series, with the second dose given at least one month after the first
- Trumenba, a three-dose series, with the second dose given one month after the first, and the third dose given six months after the first
Either vaccine can be used, but because they are not interchangeable, the follow-up doses should be of the same brand as the initial dose.
State law requires health insurers to cover the cost of vaccines and antibiotics during an outbreak for enrollees 25 and younger, and who are attending or enrolled to attend OSU at the Corvallis campus. Students having trouble accessing vaccines due to insurance restrictions should call 888-877-4894 or email email@example.com to connect with patient advocates.
Vaccination is the best means of preventing meningococcal disease. The following measures may offer some additional protection: students reduce the risk of transmission by coughing into a sleeve or tissue; avoiding exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, such as by sharing drinks or kissing; washing and sanitizing hands often; and not sharing drinks, utensils, cigarettes or other smoking equipment or personal cosmetics that touch the lips. Meningococcal B disease is not typically transmitted by touching kitchen counters, tables, doorknobs and other surfaces.
Additional meningococcal B disease information:
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