A few weeks after discovering that University of La Verne freshman Carlos Carrazco had come down with bacterial meningitis instead of the more common flu bug, Brandt Hall residents and students in general are taking the chances that they, too, will contract the potentially deadly illness in stride.
Most feel that they are in the clear because the incubation period, during which symptoms usually surface in affected individuals following exposure to the illness, has safely passed.
“The incubation period from the point of coming down with bacterial meningitis and being exposed to it is two to 10 days,” Cindy Denne, director of Student Health Services, said. “The ULV community was not considered to be at risk if no concerns were expressed through Wednesday, but we gave out Cipro through Monday to factor in that comfort level.”
Denne said a total of 230 doses of Cipro, a prophylactic antibiotic treatment, were given to students and faculty members through Monday, May 1, including the doses given to Brandt Hall residents directly exposed to the disease on Sunday, April 24.
Students such as Minh Thainguyen, a freshman chemistry major and Brandt Hall resident, were paranoid and germ-cautious immediately following news of the so-called meningitis outbreak, but are less anxious as the days pass.
“I didn’t want to use the bathroom for a whole week, but then used it anyways,” Thainguyen said. “I just keep my room cleaner and don’t touch any of the wall surfaces in the bathroom. My roommate and I also bought a can of Lysol and sprayed the whole room.”
Denne said providing students with the option to take Cipro helped to alleviate general concerns.
“We basically provided the medicine to a lot of people who didn’t come in direct contact and who weren’t at risk, but we’re a small campus, so to err on the side of caution was a prudent step for Student Health Services and Public Health Services to take,” Denne said.
Megan Haney, a freshman child development major and off-campus resident, said the outbreak had not changed her daily routine, but she nonetheless rushed to get the vaccine, despite knowing that it would not take immediate effect, at the urging of her mother.
"My mom made me an appointment because she was worried, but the shot cost $85,” Haney said. “I was outraged because my insurance didn’t cover it. I’m not just some Joe walking in off the street asking to get a meningitis shot out of nowhere, I attend a school where there was recently an outbreak.”
Haney was depending on the shot for some modicum of protection, because she is unable to swallow pills, thereby eliminating Cipro as an option.
“My mom wanted me to get the pill, crush it and take it with some water, but I’ve tried that before with Tylenol and the experience was awful,” she said.
However, her initial fears disappeared when she was failed to develop the telltale, flu-like symptoms associated with meningitis in the days following the outbreak.
“I’m pretty much doing the same things I was doing before,” Haney said. “I’m not scared because I feel like it was a contained incident. It’s a pretty big deal though; it’s not something to joke about.”
Staci Graham, a freshman and third floor Brandt resident, also said she had continued to go about her normal activities. After taking Cipro, she felt she was more or less out of harm’s way.
“I was surprised to learn about it, but not worried,” Graham said in reference to the outbreak.
Kristin Alcorn, a senior criminology major and first floor Brandt resident, said she shared the same sentiment.
“(Student Health Services) said there was no risk to us anymore; symptoms would have taken place in 24-48 hours and I wasn’t really around him,” Alcorn said in reference to her chances of contracting the illness.
And Joey Chico, a freshman and second floor resident of Brandt Hall, summed up what many students said; the meningitis “outbreak” was hardly an epidemic and therefore was nothing to lose sleep over.
“I got the shot and took the medication for it, but I’m not worried about it anymore,” Chico said. “It wasn’t really an outbreak though; it was just the one case.”
But Denne nevertheless recommended that on-campus residents get vaccinated for an added layer of protection, as even though the vaccine does not protect against every strain of meningitis, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Kady Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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