Fresno State student has bacterial meningitis. Now 72 others are getting antibiotics

Students walk by the Madden Library at Fresno State.
Students walk by the Madden Library at Fresno State. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

A Fresno State student has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and 72 students who might have been exposed are being given antibiotics, county health officials said Wednesday afternoon.

The health center at California State University, Fresno notified the county Department of Public Health of the diagnosis on Monday, said Dr. Ken Bird, health officer for Fresno County.

The student was admitted to a hospital, but is recovering, Bird said. The county does not identify patients for confidentiality reasons.

The strain of bacteria, called Neisseria meningitidis, causes meningitis. About 10 percent of people carry the germ in their noses but do not have symptoms. But it is contagious and can be spread by close contact, such as in college dorms. It also can be spread by sharing drinks, eating utensils and smoking devices, such as those used for vaping.

About 10 percent of people carry the germ in their noses but do not have symptoms.

The symptoms of meningococcal disease include sudden fever, headache, and stiff neck. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, and confusion.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated with antibiotics. A vaccine is available to prevent bacterial meningitis and is recommended for middle-school students and for students entering college.

Sudden fever and headache may be symptoms of early meningitis, which often mimics the flu.

The illness is fairly rare. The Fresno County Department of Public health reports one to four cases a year.

Fresno State said in a written notice to students that it is following established protocols to identify individuals possibly exposed. “Those individuals will be notified and offered medication that can prevent the illness. The university will continue to monitor and assess the situation,” it said.

The university said Fresno State students, faculty and staff are advised to watch for signs of illness for the next 14 days, including a high fever, severe headache, very stiff neck and/or a rash that does not blanch with pressure. Anyone with symptoms should call their health provider immediately and ask the doctor about getting the meningococcal vaccine.

Anyone with concerns is encouraged to call the Student Health and Counseling Center at 559-278-6715 or the Fresno County Department of Public Health at 559-600-3332.

More information about meningitis is available on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Barbara Anderson: 559-441-6310, @beehealthwriter