Corvallis student diagnosed with meningococcal disease: 'This is an extremely rare condition'

      CORVALLIS, Ore. - A high school student in Corvallis is being treated for meningococcal meningitis, a disease that strikes less than one person in 100,000 each year, the Benton County Health Department said.

      The teenager's condition prompted county officials to educate the community about the illness.

      The student was admitted to Good Samaritan Medical Center on Sunday, but officials said symptoms of bacterial meningitis first appeared on May 31.

      Officials are trying to identify anybody else who may have been exposed to the rare disease.

      The CDC says 98 percent of cases are sporadic. Only 2 percent of cases occur as part of an outbreak, according to the CDC.

      "This is an extremely rare condition and it is difficult to contract meningococcal disease, as it takes significant prolonged direct contact," Benton County Health Department Deputy Director Charlie Fautin said. "We are working to identify anyone who may have come into contact with the patient and determining whether preventive treatment is in order to prevent any possible spread. Anyone who experiences symptoms should contact their health provider."

      Fautin said the Benton County Health Department is working with a handful of individuals who had close contact with the teenager.

      "It's not a highly contagious and so people are only at risk if they're in vest close face to face contact for fairly extended periods, for hours," said Fautin.

      Kevin Bogatin with Corvallis School District is optimistic no other students were infected.

      "I'm not aware of any further individuals with symptoms or that have been admitted or anything like that, so I think this is - at least from what I'm hearing from the county - a fairly isolated case," said Bogatin.

      Meningococcal is an uncommon disease caused by bacteria present in the throat or nasal passages of about 10 percent of the general population, county health officials said. Most people can carry the bacteria and never become ill.

      The disease is transmitted through direct contact with droplets from coughing or sneezing, or other discharges from the nose or throat.

      Those at risk of catching meningococcal disease have spent at least 4 hours cumulatively in close, face-to-face association with the ill person within one week of the patient's symptom onset.

      Symptoms of the disease are high fever, headache and stiff neck.

      Some people do not get meningitis, but they get infection of the bloodstream, which causes fever and a rash. This rash develops rapidly and usually appears on the armpits, groin and ankles, as well as in areas where elastic pressure is applied.

      Symptoms usually appear in three to four days, but can appear within two to 10 days.

      Those who are concerned about exposure should contact their health care provider or a Benton County Communicable Disease Nurse at 541-766-6835.

      The best way to prevent meningococcal disease is by vaccination. Other ways to lower the risk of infection include the following:

      • Stop smoking - studies have shown that smokers are three to four times more likely to contract the disease;
      • Don't let children be in rooms where people are smoking;
      • Prevent respiratory tract infections by receiving influenza vaccine and avoiding close contact with people with coughs and colds; and
      • Frequent hand-washing.

      Vaccination against meningococcal disease is recommended for all children 11 to 18 years old and for college freshmen living in dorms.

      To get vaccinated, those interested can contact their health care provider or call the Benton County Health Department at 541-766-6835 to schedule an appointment.

      "We take the health and safety of our students very seriously and so we are working with the Benton County Health Department to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and staff," Corvallis School District Assistant Superintendent Kevin Bogatin said. "We would like to remind people not to be alarmed, but to exercise reasonable caution."