Cal Poly student diagnosed with viral meningitis

An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
An entrance to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

A Cal Poly student has been diagnosed with viral meningitis, according to university officials.

The student, who lives off-campus, was diagnosed after showing signs of confusion and is now receiving medical care.

Meningitis is a serious infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis generally is less severe than bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal.

“We have reason to believe that this is not going to spread beyond this one case,” Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said.

Cal Poly Health Center staff members have informed other students who have been in contact with the infected student and advised them on signs and symptoms that would necessitate medical attention, Lazier said.

Sharing saliva through kissing, sharing food, drinks or food utensils, and other close personal contact is considered a primary risk of transferring the disease. Symptoms include: fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion and often a rash. A person with meningitis may not show all of these symptoms.

This is the first case of meningitis confirmed on campus in at least three years, Lazier said. He said he could not give additional details about the student, such as if the student was diagnosed on or off campus, because of laws protecting the student’s medical privacy.

The more serious bacterial form of meningitis has plagued several college campuses recently. At UCSB, there were four confirmed cases of meningitis in a three-week period in November. One student, a lacrosse player, had to have his feet amputated because of the infection.

A staff member at UC Riverside was also recently diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, and eight cases of bacterial meningitis have been confirmed at Princeton University since spring at its New Jersey campus. The college has been offering vaccine clinics for students this week, with more than 3,300 students vaccinated.

Bacterial meningitis requires immediate medical attention because it can quickly become life-threatening, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Viral meningitis is usually less severe in people with a normal immune system, and most people typically recover on their own in about seven to 10 days, the CDC says. In severe cases or in people with poor immune systems, hospitalization is sometimes required. As with all viruses, viral meningitis does not respond to antibiotics.

In both types of the disease, symptoms are said to show up rapidly.

It is recommended that anyone who has been in contact with someone diagnosed with either viral or bacterial meningitis be screened. Individuals exposed to bacterial meningitis may be given preventive antibiotics to avoid development of meningitis.