Meningitis case under control

Bailey Porter
Editor in Chief

The University of La Verne student hospitalized with bacterial meningitis Sunday was released yesterday and is recovering at home.

Carlos Carrazco, a first-year student living in Brandt Hall, was taken by a friend to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Sunday with flu-like symptoms, which lab tests later confirmed to be bacterial meningitis, a highly contagious strain of an infection of the spinal fluid and the fluid surrounding the brain.

Carrazco remains the single meningitis case at the University despite rumors of additional cases, ULV spokesman Charles Bentley said.

The hospital notified Housing and Student Health Services immediately following Carrazco’s diagnosis.

Direct communication with the hospital and quick response on campus allowed Health Services to meet with Brandt Hall residents late Sunday, Director of Student Health Services Cindi Denne said.

Anyone who had direct contact with Carrazco was strongly encouraged to take the prophylactic antibiotic Cipro provided free of charge by Health Services. Cipro, a 500 mg tablet, is a one-time treatment that was easily accessible to Health Services through the PVHMC pharmacy, Denne said.

Also, anyone with health concerns who did not have direct contact with Carrazco was given Cipro, she said.

“We wanted to provide that comfort level,” she said.

As of press time, Health Services distributed 140 of the 150 doses to students and faculty and obtained an additional 100 doses in anticipation of more requests.

A campus-wide email was sent to students, faculty and staff on Monday.

“I cannot say enough about people from Pomona Valley,” Charles Bentley said. “Every preventative measure was exactly the right thing to do. The University’s No.1 focus and concern is always the health, safety and well being of the students, faculty and staff. “

Once diagnosed, bacterial meningitis can be treated quickly. The danger lies in the effect of the symptoms and causes of the infection.

Left untreated, bacterial meningitis can cause brain damage, hearing loss, blindness, kidney failure or paralysis. Symptoms include rashes, vomiting, high fever, confusion, sleepiness, a stiff neck and even seizures.

“Carlos’ doctors have been very optimistic about his response to treatment,” Bentley said.

The possibility of getting meningitis is heightened for those living in residence halls because of the close proximity of living conditions.

“I was worried,” freshman Kiyoko Fiser said. But Fiser got her meningitis shot before moving into the Oaks “just in case.”

It is possible that even after an investigation into this case, we will not know how Carrazco became infected, Denne said.

Freshman Kelliann Austin, who lives in Brandt, said she tried to get the shot this week but will have to wait until Tuesday.

“It hits in 48 hours, so by Tuesday I could be dead,” Austin said.
The most important preventative is getting the immunization shot.

However there are some measures students can take to reduce the risk of contracting meningitis. Washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough are important health precautions since people can get infected from respiratory secretions, sharing utensils or a drink, or kissing, Denne said.

“A lot of people probably don’t stop to think that if they are sharing a cigarette they are sharing germs,” she said.

Students who plan to live in on-campus housing are encouraged to get an immunization shot. The shot does not prevent all strains of meningitis, but it is a good cover, Denne said.

“I think now it should be required to get the shot,” sophomore Darnell Gilbert said. Gilbert is a commuter and is not personally concerned with getting meningitis but said he is aware of the dangers.

Due to the serious nature of the infection, California law requires universities to make information available to students on campus. The University distributes information about meningitis in housing packets, a Student Health Advisory Notification and Web site postings. Students are not required to get the shot before living on campus.

“The whole idea is to give (the students) information they need to make good choices,” Denne said.

But not all students are getting the shot. Part of the problem could be cost. The newest generation of the shot available at Health Services is $83. Although this shot gives more coverage than older versions the cost alone can be a roadblock, Denne said.

ULV health insurance does not cover the cost.

Austin agreed that the shot is costly, especially since she will be paying for her friend’s shot as well.

Students might also be opting out of getting the shot because they have not seen meningitis affect anyone they know making it difficult to understand the seriousness of it, Denne said.

Brett Hobbs, a transfer student living in the Sheraton did not know about meningitis or Carrazco’s case.

He thinks the information the University provides about meningitis is worthwhile, but not everyone will listen.

“Students are students. They think ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’” he said.

Freshman Lauren Johnson moved into Stu-Han two days before school started and although she read the literature about meningitis she did not have a clear understanding of it. She said the shot should be required.

“It should be a mandatory part of getting accepted into housing,” Johnson said. “When you’re given the choice, no one is going to want the shot.”

The case sparked media attention this week with seven different broadcasts Wednesday night.

Carrazco has denied several requests for interviews and is concentrating on recovering, Bentley said.

Bailey Porter can be reached at porterb@ulv.edu.


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Posted April 29, 2005
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