Health officials in Lane County confirmed this week that the bacterial infection meningococcemia is to blame for the death of a University of Oregon student-athlete who passed away last week. Lauren Jones, a freshman on the Ducks acrobatics and tumbling team, died suddenly from the fourth reported case the campus has seen in two months.
There are no known cases in Jackson County or on the Southern Oregon University campus and no plans for vaccination here. That’s in part because the disease has not been very common in America, but can be incredibly deadly due to its pathogen borne movement and rapid onset of infection.
“Institutional settings like colleges are the most susceptible for diseases like this,” says SOU M.D. Lorraine McDonald.
UpToDate.com, a composite website of physicians worldwide, states that someone incubating the pathogen can infect others within ten feet of them, even if the host doesn’t yet feel symptoms.
The county health department has given out vaccinations to students who were in close proximity to Jones, including her teammates and those in the same dorm building, but the school is currently preparing for a mass vaccination.
A campus-wide email from the U of O Vice President, Robin Holmes, was sent out Friday that stated while daily vaccinations are taking place in the Health Center, a multi-day vaccination opportunity will commence during the first week of March. The notification went on to say that more resources and workers are being pulled to meet the possibility of vaccinating up to 22,000 students.
Right now, hardly any colleges in America require a meningitis vaccination before enrollment. Though SOU requires that students are vaccinated for measles before registering, immunization for meningococcemia is not documented by the health office.
Since the outbreak in Eugene, Oregon public health offices have worked to make the vaccination more available. But Jackson County hasn’t released any information on plans to provide the vaccines here as of yet.
“We are in an isolated, rural area, but do have a traveling population,” McDonald stated.
Eugene might be hundreds of miles away, but distance doesn’t matter much to a pathogen that can be contracted by simply breathing in the wrong part of a classroom.