(BCN) — Santa Clara County health officials are providing vaccinations to students at Santa Clara University, where two students were sent to the hospital earlier this week and were found to have meningitis.
Laboratory tests for the two undergraduate students came back positive for meningococcal bacteria, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said at a news conference today in San Jose.
“This has been something we became aware just shy of 72 hours ago. It’s a dynamic and ongoing situation,” Cody said.
The first student fell ill and went to the hospital on Sunday and the second was hospitalized on Monday, said Cody, who didn’t have an update on their conditions today.
The bacteria caused one of the students to fall ill with meningitis, which is the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and the other with septicemia, which is a bloodstream infection, Cody said.
The bacteria appear in the back of the nose or throat that can be passed through close contact, such as through a roommate, teammate or friend, according to Cody.
A “Super Community Celebration” on Saturday at the university will go on as scheduled, said Dr. Jill Rovaris, director of the university’s Cowell Center for medical services.
Cody said there is no reason to make changes for the Saturday event since antibiotics have been provided to help decrease the number of people carrying the bacteria.
University officials have met with about 500 students in response to the two cases and have provided treatment as needed, Rovaris said.
The university is holding a free vaccine clinic for students on Thursday and Friday at its Leavey Center.
Most students have been vaccinated to protect themselves against four types of meningitis, but not the one against bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, serogroup B, which was found in one of the two students,
according to Cody.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccines to combat serogroup B that were approved in the past two years, Cody said.
County health officials have been working with the university to make sure any students who were in close contact with the sick receive antibiotics, according to Cody.
In the past several years, clusters of the serogroup B bacteria have appeared on college campuses where people tend to gather, Cody said.
Clusters of the bacteria are uncommon, but when they do it is sporadic and isolated, according to Cody.
About 10 percent of people die from an invasive meningococcal infection, according to Cody.
Symptoms of meningitis include a sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light, county health officials said.
Symptoms of septicemia include fatigue, diarrhea, chills and severe muscle aches. The symptoms can develop over the course of one to 10 days from exposure, according to county health officials.
“We’re deeply concerned about the welfare of our students, faculty and staff,” university president the Rev. Michael Engh said.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the students and families that are affected,” Engh said.