Thursday, January 16, 2014
Meningitis outbreaks strike two campuses
Those of us who believe in the unvarying beneficence of Mother Nature have yet to contemplate Neisseria meningitidis. N. meningitidis is a bacterium that can live harmlessly in the throats of healthy people. But about 500 times a year in the U.S. it causes bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening infection in which the membranes lining the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. Bacterial meningitis is treatable with antibiotics but even with treatment patients sometime suffer hearing loss or brain damage. And despite prompt treatment infection is sometimes fatal. When N. meningitidis gets into the blood stream it can cause loss of circulation to the extremities and loss of limbs.
On the first day of medical school I met a classmate who would become a dear friend. She was walking with a cane. During her summer vacation she had lost a couple of toes due to a blood stream infection with N. meningitidis. It would only be later when we studied microbiology that we understood how close to death she came.
N. meningitidis is transmitted between people living in very close quarters. Outbreaks can occur in facilities like prisons, military barracks, and college dormitories. For that reason, most college students are vaccinated against most strains of N. meningitidis prior to attending.
This year two U.S. campuses have had outbreaks of meningitis due to N. meningitidis. Princeton has had seven cases. The first was in March and the most recent in late November. And in the last month four students developed meningitis at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). One of the UCSB students suffered a blood stream infection and had both of his feet amputated.
The two campus outbreaks appear to be unrelated, but both are caused by a strain of N. meningitidis that is not covered by the U.S. vaccine. Health officials have been working to obtain doses of the European vaccine for students in both campuses. Meanwhile hundreds of students who have come into contact with the sickened patients are receiving preventive antibiotics, and crowded gatherings like fraternity parties have been canceled. This is especially sad since it’s my understanding that fraternity parties are the only reason people attend UCSB.
I’m sure the students and parents of both campuses are quite anxious. I hope that both outbreaks are extinguished promptly and that no one else falls ill. And to the student who lost both feet I wish determination and strength and high-tech prosthetics to make the most of what I hope will now be a healthy and long life.
While the public health officials continue their difficult work we are left to retreat to our delusions that nature is benevolent. So we will shop for our organic free-range arugula and our locally-sourced fair-trade hemp sweater vests. And we will do our best to forget that left to her own devices Mother Nature is usually trying to kill us.
Second Meningitis Outbreak Erupts In Southern California (Shots, NPR’s health blog)
Two universities battle meningitis outbreaks (USA Today)
Meningitis outbreak: UC Santa Barbara lacrosse player’s feet amputated (Los Angeles Times)
Why College Campuses Get Hit By Meningitis Outbreaks (Shots, NPR’s health blog)
Bacterial Meningitis (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000. Holding privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he is also an assistant clinical professor at UCLA's Department of Medicine. This post originally appeared at his blog.
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Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.
And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.
Controversies in Hospital
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).
db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.
Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.
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David Katz, MD
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Other blogs of note:
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Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.