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Debate on vaccine use continues as meningitis spreads in CA

Last week, we took note of the fact that a particularly virulent form of meningitis bacteria had cropped up at the University of California at Santa Barbara. At that time, four students had come down with the bug. Three are now reported to have recovered, but the fourth has been left permanently disabled. Doctors had to amputate both his feet.

The strain of meningitis involved is not the same as the one that infected eight students at Princeton University in New Jersey, but it is similar. Princeton got approval from the federal government to deploy an as-yet-unlicensed vaccine to fight the outbreak. And Santa Barbara officials said last week that they have asked federal officials about the possibility of using the vaccine here, too.

So far, no decision has been issued. Discussions reportedly continue over whether the vaccine will work on the Santa Barbara strain.

Meanwhile, two more colleges in the state report that meningitis has surfaced on their campuses. One staff person at the University of California, Riverside, is suspected of having contracted bacterial meningitis, while a case of less severe viral meningitis is reported at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Meningococcal disease is not something to take lightly. It is a swift moving disease that can affect the brain. If it gets into the bloodstream, it can affect other parts of the body and can leave a person permanently disabled. It also is included on the Social Security Administration's list of blood disorders that may qualify a person to receive benefits. An attorney should be consulted to help determine if seeking Social Security disability insurance benefits makes sense.

Source: Fox News, "Vaccine possible in Cal campus meningitis outbreak," Associated Press, Dec. 14, 2013

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