Oregon State University is redoubling its efforts to ensure that incoming students are vaccinated against meningococcal disease after another life-threatening case was reported last week.
University officials have begun to withhold grades and block registration for students who fail to complete a full course of immunization for strain B of meningitis, the subtype involved in the current outbreak. Incoming students aged 25 years or younger (the susceptible age group) are already required to receive a tetravalent vaccine that protects against four other strains of meningococcal disease.
On Sunday, OSU sent an email to the nearly 25,000 students at its Corvallis campus. as more than 10,000 fathers who stress the seriousness of the situation and the importance of completing a full course of two or three injections of strain B vaccine. On Monday, a similar message was sent to more than 7,000 teachers and staff.
"We are really increasing the urgency," said OSU Vice President Steve Clark. "We are being very clear and very punctual that this is nothing to delay."
It was the fifth case of meningococcal disease that attacked OSU in an ongoing outbreak that began just over a year ago. A student who visited her family for Thanksgiving was hospitalized on Friday and reportedly in good condition, according to the Benton County Health Department.
"He was a very alert father who saw the situation getting worse and quickly attended to them" So far, the five Oregon State students diagnosed with the disease are recovering or have recovered, but could have gone the other way " Fautin said, nationally, about 10 percent of cases of meningococcal disease end in death and another 10-20 percent result in severe lifelong impairments that can include deafness, blindness or amputation of extremities.
] "At this point, I hate to use the phrase: but we are overcoming the odds," said Fautin. "We have been very fortunate with OSU."
Fautin noted that a similar outbreak in 2015 at the University of Oregon cost the life of a student and that a Corvallis High School student lost both legs below the knee and parts of eight fingers after contracting the disease in 2014.
He emphasized the importance of obtaining medical attention quickly. While some symptoms of meningococcal disease can mimic a cold or the flu, strong indications include high fever, persistent headache, and stiff neck.
"This is a disease that can progress dramatically quickly," Fautin said. "It can happen in a couple of hours of feeling cruddy to threaten life."
OSU has conducted several mbadive vaccination clinics to immunize students against meningococcal disease B, including a couple this month after a new case was diagnosed on October 27.
It takes a full year without new cases to declare the onset of an outbreak of meningococcal disease, and Clark said the university would maintain its efforts to ensure that students know the problem and meet all immunization requirements.  "We will continue to act very aggressively to inform, vaccinate and demand (compliance)," he said.
You can contact reporter Bennett Hall by calling 541-758-9529 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.