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UC Santa Barbara Will Offer Experimental Meningitis Vaccine

Update Date: Feb 01, 2014 10:55 AM EST

Last year, Princeton University in New Jersey and the University of California, Santa Barbara dealt with a meningitis outbreak. At the Ivy League, eight students tested positive for meningitis, which prompted the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to request the import of an experimental meningitis vaccine from Europe. The vaccine will now be offered next month at UC Santa Barbara where four cases rose during this past fall.

The meningitis vaccine, Bexsero, is produced by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG. Bexsero is currently not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but has been approved in Europe, Canada and Australia. Unlike the vaccines available in the U.S., Bexsero protects against serotype B of the meningococcal bacteria. The cases that afflicted both universities were serotype B.

"The campus has not had any additional cases of meningitis since November; however, the CDC is recommending the vaccine to help protect the community," said Mary Ferris, executive director of student health services, reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection. It causes the membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal cord to become inflamed. Some of the symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, headache and mental changes. In one of the cases, an 18-year-old freshman and ex-lacrosse player from UC Santa Barbara ended up losing his feet due to the infection. Meningitis is extremely contagious, which is why it is important to vaccinate people within a campus where the bacteria can spread easily.

The vaccine will be available free of charge from Feb. 24 to March 27. All undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members and staff are recommended to get vaccinated. In the meantime, everyone on campus must remember to stay clean by washing their hands and avoid sharing utensils and glasses with one another.

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