School suspends parties in response to second U.S. meningitis outbreak

The University of California Santa Barbara is suspending some social and fraternity events to prevent the further spread of a strain of meningitis that has now infected four students, one of whom lost his feet to the disease.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed the fourth case on Monday. Meningitis, which causes the membranes in the brain and spine to swell, can be fatal. Those who survive can be permanently paralyzed or mentally impaired.

A giant crane (L) that will lift up the sunken 'Sewol' ferry is silhouetted against the sunset in Jindo on April 24, 2014. Furious relatives of missing victims from South Korea's ferry disaster attacked a top coastguard official accusing him of lying about efforts to retrieve bodies still trapped in the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURINICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

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The disease is spread through proximity and contact. Hundreds of students have been given prophylactic antibiotics, and the university is also cleaning dormitories and athletic facilities more thoroughly to ensure that more people aren’t infected.

The outbreak is the second at a U.S. college this year. Eight people have fallen ill at Princeton since March with the same illness, type B meningococcal disease. Authorities say they don’t believe the two outbreaks are related, however, because of genetic differences in the bacteria at the two schools, according to ABC.

Although no vaccine for type B meningitis has been approved for use in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is permitting Princeton to import a vaccine that is available in Europe and Australia. Students who choose to do so will be able to receive the vaccine starting next week.

Aaron Loy, a freshman lacrosse player at UCSB, lost circulation in his limbs because of the disease, and doctors were forced to amputate his lower legs. He remains hospitalized, according to the Associated Press.

Symptoms include ache, fever, rash, nausea and stiffness in the neck.

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