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UCSB Won't Use Foreign Vaccine in Meningitis Outbreak

Published On: Nov 25 2013 03:05:30 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 25 2013 05:17:40 PM CST

Plans to offer a non - U.S. approved vaccine to college students after an outbreak of meningitis at Princeton University in New Jersey will not be offered at UC-Santa Barbara for the time being.  Both universities have experienced outbreaks of meningitis.

CDC pediatrician and meningococcal disease expert Dr. Amanda Cohn told reporters on a teleconference Monday there were three confirmed cases at UCSB, with seven confirmed at Princeton. 

There are differences in the strains of virus between the campuses, so the outbreaks are not considered related to each other.  There have been no reported fatalities, but there were "some very serious cases," Dr. Cohn said.

The CDC has decided to move ahead with the use of an unapproved vaccine called Bexsero for the Princeton campus to inoculate students.  The vaccine is expected to be available after the Thanksgiving holiday.

"In the 10 years I’ve been working at CDC, we have never had expanded use of an unlicensed product [for meningitis]," Dr Cohn said.  "We needed to do something to prevent additional cases,” she added.

Students going home for the holidays from UCSB and Princeton were urged to pay attention to their overall health and quickly see a doctor if they experience symptoms including:  high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, light sensitivity, confusion or exhaustion.

CDC experts said meningococcal disease is harder to spread than viruses such as the flu because it requires close contact such as living together or french kissing.  Casual contact does not spread the virus.

Current U.S. - approved vaccines do not protect against the strain that has been found on the college campuses.  The overseas vaccines that do not have current U.S. approval will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

“We will follow each outbreak closely and import this vaccine as needed.  Each outbreak requires careful review,” Dr. Cohn said.

CDC officials tell NewsChannel 3 the agency remains in close contact with local and state health experts and would re-visit the decision on the foreign vaccine should conditions warrant.

Note:  A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the vaccine would be offered at both Princeton and UC-Santa Barbara.  The vaccine will not be offered at UCSB at the present time.  NewsChannel 3 regrets the error.


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