University of California, Riverside

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Information About Bacterial Meningitis

UC Riverside has been advised that a staff member has a suspected case of bacterial meningitis. Although the risk of transmission is low, it is best to take precautions.

The university will notify any students, staff and faculty who could have had repeated contact with the individual. The campus is offering resources at the campus health center for any student who is concerned.

The Campus Health Center is following standard protocols mandated by public health laws and by general practice.

Information You Should Know about Bacterial Meningitis

What is meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitides that can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. There are a few different types or strains of Neisseria meningitides. In the US, types B, C and Y cause the majority of disease.

In the US, approximately 800 to 1,500 people are infected with meningococcal meningitis and 120 die from the disease per year. About one of every five survivors lives with permanent disabilities, such as seizures, amputations, kidney disease, deafness, brain damage and psychological problems.

How is bacterial meningitis treated?

Treatment should be started immediately. Most people with meningitis are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, other treatments may also be necessary.

Is bacterial meningitis contagious?

Bacterial meningitis is contagious, but generally is transmitted only through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as coughing, sharing drinks, kissing and being in close proximity for an extended period. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis could include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include severe fatigue, vomiting, confusion, and sensitivity to light. Later in the illness, a rash that looks like purple blotches or spots on the arms, legs and torso may appear.

How long until symptoms begin to present themselves?

They can develop over several hours, or may take a few days. The incubation period can range from 2–10 days but commonly is 3–4 days.

What can be done to prevent the spread of the disease on campus?

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially before eating.
  • Do not share utensils, water bottles or other items contaminated by another person.
  • Stay home when you are sick and avoid other people who are ill, if possible.
  • Avoid crowded, smoky settings, as smoke seems to make people more vulnerable.
  • Get a flu shot to stay well.

How do I know if I am among the people at UCR who could have come into close contact with the employee?

Those people will be contacted individually.

Should students stay away from classes?

No, the diagnosed employee is off campus.

Can someone carry the disease without getting sick?

Approximately five to 25 percent of people may carry the bacteria in their nose or throat without getting sick, while still being contagious to others. This carrier state may last for days or months before spontaneously disappearing.

Should I wear a mask to prevent exposure?

The Centers for Disease control does not recommend wearing a surgical mask to prevent exposure.

Isn't there a vaccine for meningitis?

Yes, there is a vaccine for meningitis. However, while the vaccine protects against the 4 most strains of the bacteria, it does not protect against all types.

Who is at higher risk from meningococcal meningitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, infants, adolescents and young adults age 16 to 21, and those over age 65 are at a higher risk of infection. People with any immune deficiency and those whose spleen is damaged or has been removed are also at increased risk. If you have questions or are concerned, please contact your personal physician.

Further information can be found on these websites:

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
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Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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