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UPDATE: Leon County investigates bacterial meningitis cluster, including FSU student

Bacterial meningitis under the microscope
Bacterial meningitis under the microscope
Published: Apr. 2, 2022 at 1:56 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Department of Health is investigating three cases of bacterial meningitis in Leon County, including one in a Florida State University student, and conducting contact tracing to alert others with potential exposure to the disease.

Health officials first announced the cluster of cases late Friday, noting this is a “serious disease.” All cases are in young people, from 18 to 22 years old. Florida State University confirmed Monday that one of its current students has been diagnosed.

“Health department officials are investigating this case and coordinating with the university. All close contacts have been notified and advised of next steps,” the university said in an email.

If students have concerns about their health, they are advised to seek medical attention at University Health Services, FSU said.

Florida A&M University said Monday there are no cases among its students. But university administrators are informing the campus community about precautions they can take to prevent transmission of the bacteria.

“We strongly strongly encourage incoming students to be vaccinated for meningitis,” Tanya Tatum with FAMU Health Services said. “There aren’t a lot of cases that occur but when they do occur, they can be very, very serious and life threatening.”

DOH says the disease, caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides, is not easily transmissible. It requires close contact over a period of time, or direct contact such as kissing or sharing drinks, according to officials. The disease is also preventable and treatable.

“We see it in these little clusters,” Daniel Van Durme with FSU College of Medicine said. “As these three or four friends who hang out together a lot, share saliva, share a drink, sharing whatever, that it will come in in a cluster. We only had three cases, but three is enough to call it a cluster.”

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against meningococcal disease,” DOH says.

Florida State says all students are advised to get the meningitis A and B vaccines upon enrollment or thereafter.

Early symptoms of meningococcal disease include sudden headache, fever, vomiting, stiff neck, and a rash.

“We are working to investigate these cases and to ensure that people who have come into close contact with the patients receive antibiotics as a precautionary measure against infection,” said Sandon Speedling, Interim Health Officer with DOH Leon.

DOH Leon offers meningococcal disease vaccines. For more information, visit the DOH Leon immunizations website or call 850-404-6403.

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