As with Princeton, the UCSB cases involve serotype B meningitis, which is not one of the four serotypes (A, C, W135, and Y) included in the meningococcal vaccine routinely given to adolescents and college freshmen in the United States. But while the meningitis type is the same at both schools, public health officials report that DNA testing has shown they are different strains. “There are no known links between the two outbreaks,” says MIT Medical’s Associate Medical Director Howard Heller.
While the new outbreak may raise concerns among MIT students and parents, Heller, an infectious disease specialist, notes that the disease is not spread through casual contact. “We are once more reaching out to housemasters, resident advisers, athletic trainers, Z-Center staff, and others to reinforce the standard hygiene messaging among students,” he says. “No sharing of towels, food, or drink. Wash hands frequently.”
While Heller does not believe there is any increased risk to the MIT community at this time, he acknowledges that the new cases are reason for increased vigilance. “We are continuing to monitor the outbreaks in New Jersey and California, constantly reassessing the risk to MIT students, and ready to take any necessary, additional precautions.”
Information about invasive meningococcal disease can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which includes the transcript of a Nov. 25 telebriefing where CDC officials answer a number of questions about the current outbreaks at Princeton and UCSB.