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Meningitis strikes California students; 1 permanently disabled

Illness can strike at any time. Some illnesses are more destructive and debilitating than others. Meningitis is one of the most pernicious of diseases and its effects on the brain and the blood can leave a victim permanently disabled. It can sometimes be fatal.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with an outbreak at Princeton University that leveled eight students. The bacteria responsible proved to so resistant to vaccines currently approved in the U.S. that federal officials made unusual decision to employ an as-yet-unavailable European vaccine to battle the bug.

Now, an outbreak at the University of California at Santa Barbara appears to be spurring the government to consider speeding up general approval of the medicine.

The devastation that meningitis can cause is one reason why it is included on the list of hematological disorders that the Social Security Administration has designated as an impairment that may constitute eligibility for Social Security disability insurance benefits.

Meningitis causes the brain and spinal cord to swell. Besides being potentially fatal, the disease can leave victims with hearing loss, kidney damage, brain damage, or lead to limb amputations. It spreads by coughing or saliva exchange. The close quarters of dormitory life make that environment good for transmission.

According to public health officials in Santa Barbara, four students at the school all came down with the resistant meningococcal infection last month. One of the students has been left permanently disabled, though officials aren't supplying any details.

Besides initiating discussions with federal officials about possibly using the European vaccine, Santa Barbara officials are distributing antibiotics to anyone who may have been exposed to the bacteria. All social events at fraternity and sorority houses have also been suspended, to prevent too much close-quarters contact.

Source: NYDailyNews.com, "Four students sickened with meningitis bacteria at UC Santa Barbara," Reuters, Dec. 4, 2013

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