Cuesta College student dies from bacterial meningitis, public health says

What is bacterial meningitis?

Sudden fever and headache may be symptoms of early meningitis, which often mimics the flu.
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Sudden fever and headache may be symptoms of early meningitis, which often mimics the flu.

A Cuesta College student has died from presumed bacterial meningitis, the county Public Health Department announced Thursday.

According to a health department news release, lab testing to confirm the diagnosis is currently underway.

The student was living in San Luis Obispo and attending the local community college.

According to the release, the health department is “working with local hospitals, Cuesta College and people close to the student to identify any individuals who may have potential risk of infection.”

Those who have come into contact with the unnamed student are receiving preventative antibiotics.

“This loss is devastating for everyone involved,” Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer, said in the release. “Our hearts go out to the family, friends and everyone who cared about this young person.”

An email was sent to Cuesta College students on Thursday, alerting them of the death.

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can be treated by antibiotics, according to the health department.

Preventative antibiotics are given to people who have come into contact with someone with the illness, including those who were exposed to the person’s respiratory and throat secretions through kissing, sharing eating utensils or dishes or other prolonged very close contact, the department said.

Bacterial meningitis is not easily transmitted by casual contact or through the air, like viruses that cause the common cold or the flu.

Symptoms include sudden fever, headache and stiff neck. The illness can seem similar to the flu, and will often also cause nausea, vomiting, rash, confusion and increased sensitivity to light, according to public health.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of bacterial meningitis should seek medical care immediately. Early treatment is critical as the infection can quickly become life-threatening.

For more information about bacterial meningitis, visit

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.