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Feb 10, 2015

06:33:54 GMT--Biological Hazard - North-America - USA

EDIS Number: BH-20150210-46940-USA

Date / time: 10/02/2015 06:32:37 [UTC]

Event: Biological Hazard

Area: North-America

Country: USA

State/County: State of Oregon

Location: Eugene [University of Oregon]

Number of Deads: N/A

Number of Injured: N/A

Number of Infected: 3 person(s)

Number of Missing: N/A

Number of Affected: N/A

Number of Evacuated: N/A

Damage level: N/A


Public health and University of Oregon officials are working to contain an outbreak of meningococcemia after a third student was diagnosed with the contagious bacterial infection earlier today. The male student is in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, said Jason Davis, spokesman for Lane County Public Health, but is lucid and answering questions. The university sent text messages and emails today to students and faculty who may have shared a class with the student to notify and inform them that an antibiotic that prevents the spread of the bacteria in the body is available at the UO Health Center, spokeswoman Jen McCulley said. The number of notifications was not immediately known. The university had notified a total of 2,000 students and faculty in the two earlier cases. The university also sent out a campus-wide email reminding students to take basic steps to protect themselves, including not sharing utensils or coffee cups. Health officials are sending blood samples from the third student to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which is already testing the blood from the two earlier infected students to determine conclusively if they are linked. The CDC defines an outbreak at a university when at least two or three confirmed cases of the same serogroup of bacteria occur within three months. All three cases are serogroup B, the most prevalent form of the bacteria in the region, Davis said, with the earliest occurring about a month ago. Davis reiterated that although the scentific definition of outbreak has been met, it represents only three cases on or near a university campus of more than 24,000 students. "The bones of the information are that it's spreading, and it's a potentially deadly bacteria," Davis said. "It is slow-moving so people don't need to be panicky." Davis said the third student lives off-campus with roommates and is "a friend of a friend" who knows the female UO student diagnosed last week with the second confirmed case of meningococcemia. She lived in an on-campus dorm. The male student also was a pledge at a local fraternity, which doesn't have a fraternity house, Davis said. He declined to identify the fraternity, citing federal privacy law. The fraternity's president told health officials that it hasn't had an organized community event in three weeks, Davis said. Davis said the agency is investigating how the two students came into close contact. "We're looking through all the scenarios to see where this person had that kind of contact ... but we haven't found that yet," he said. The bacterium that can cause meningococcemia is contagious, spreading through kissing, sharing utensils or cups, and being within three feet of an infected individual for at least four hours over a seven-day period. It does not, however, spread as easily as the viruses that cause the flu or measles. The agency also is monitoring the roommates of the third student, Davis said. The first confirmed cases occurred in mid-January when a female student who lived off campus fell gravely ill. Both students have been released from the hospital and are recovering. Another student was directed to the hospital last week after she exhibited early symptoms of meningococcemia and had been in close contact with the second student. Testing cleared her of the disease, however. Health officials sent the blood samples to the CDC because the state lab has people out due to illness, Davis said. It's unknown when results will be available. If the cases are all linked, public health and UO officials would continue their outreach and make readily available the antibiotic, Davis said. If the cases are not linked in any way, indicating an unexplained spread of the bacteria, public health officials would order the university to organize mass vaccination clinics for all students, Davis explained. He said that outcome is unlikely because the second and third cases share a social link. A bacteria causes meningococcal disease, which can lead to meningitis, the potentially life-threatening swelling of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord, or can cause meningococcemia, an infection of the bloodstream that can damage the walls of blood vessels and organs. Both diseases can be fatal.

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