ETX colleges monitoring national meningitis cases -, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

ETX colleges monitoring national meningitis cases

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An uncommon type of meningitis has popped up at two different universities on opposite sides of the United States, prompting health officials to take a rare step in fighting the disease.

Eight students at Princeton University in New Jersey, along with four University of California Santa Barbara students have been confirmed to have this rare type of meningitis.

The virus’ threat has long been a concern on college campuses, but the disease has largely vanished in recent years due to dozens of states, including Texas, mandating that students under 22 be vaccinated against it before arriving on campus.

Officials said the trouble is the strain causing the outbreak is not covered by vaccinations given in the US. Because of that, the CDC is allowing a vaccine to be shipped over from Europe which has not been tested in the United States.

East Texas colleges said they are monitoring the situation constantly and feel they will be able to respond should an outbreak occur.

“These infections are hundreds of miles away at this point,” said SFA Health Services Physician Dr. Penny Jeffrey.

We always keep a close eye out. At this point, there's no specific precautions that we are taking, but we do have protocols in place.”

Tyler Junior College said they are on the same page.

“We pay attention to these kinds of things year round,” said spokesperson Fred Peters. “We feel like we're as prepared as we've ever have been.”

North East Texas Public Health District Emergency Preparedness Director Russell Hopkins said while the strain isn’t covered by the standard vaccine, it does respond to antibiotics.

“It's treatable, which is great,” Hopkins said. “What it means is that public health departments and disease surveillance agencies need to be on their toes when they see this. They need to be thinking about what the response would be.”

If an outbreak does occur, Hopkins said there is no time to waste.

“We act immediately 24/7 whenever we're notified that there's positive lab results,” he said. “It is terrifying if it proceeds past a certain point, because it can be a devastating and fatal disease, which is why we are urgently on guard for it.”

Hopkins said the best way to prevent the virus’ spread is to follow basic health rules, including washing hands, not sharing eating or drinking utensils, covering coughs and limiting exposure to those who are already sick.

Officials said it is important to not wait to see a doctor if you have the symptoms of the virus, as earlier treatment increases survival rates as well as prevents an outbreak from occurring.

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