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Teen diagnosed with bacterial meningitis last week is Cuesta College student

A 19-year-old male Cuesta College student has been identified as the person diagnosed late last week by the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department with a possibly rare case of bacterial meningitis.

Specifically, it is strongly suspected by county health officials that the young man has meningococcal meningitis, according to a news release from Cuesta College. Bacterial meningitis is rare enough with the county averaging four cases per year, but the county usually only has one case a year of meningococcal meningitis.

There are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases of the disease in the United States each year, and an average of 125 people die from it nationwide.

The male patient is in Sierra Vista Hospital receiving treatment.

Antibiotics can be used to treat the disease, which is known for its high fever, with patients suffering a headache and stiff neck. Because its symptoms of achiness, nausea and vomiting can mimic the flu, it can be difficult for individuals to self diagnose. But the stiff neck, sensitivity to light and a rash can be distinguishing factors, according to the Cuesta and a number of health web sites.

Cuesta reported today that it is working closely with the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department to identify and treat all those who may have come in contact with the student.

Sharing saliva through kissing, sharing food or food utensils, and other close personal contact is considered a primary risk of transferring the disease.

The Public Health Department reports that young adults from age 17 to 20 have a higher rate of this disease than the general population. A vaccine is available to prevent the infection. Some states require the vaccine for those who will be attending college, while California does not.

For more information, call the department at 782-5500.

--Sally Connell

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