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A Positive Amid a Sea of Negative

Residual Effects of Meningococcal Outbreak Persist for Some


Aaron Loy, an 18-year-old UCSB student and lacrosse player, was one of the people who contracted meningitis during the November outbreak at UCSB, and he has had to have both of his lower legs amputated. UCSB officials said that the students who contracted the disease did not live together, or even in the same building, but picked it up through social contact. The CDC and public health officials are still trying to identify the exact mode of transmission. For Loy, however, the focus is on overcoming the effects this disease has had on his life.

Cat Neushul

The Loy family has set up a website on HelpHopeLive to give people a chance to support Aaron’s recovery through donations, and share their experiences. Reading the entries detailing Aaron’s transport from Santa Barbara to a hospital in San Diego, his surgeries, and his first attempt to eat on his own are heartbreaking, yet uplifting at the same time. Through seeing how his family is approaching his recovery, you realize what true strength and love looks like. Take this entry for example:

November 30, 2013

Ice chips, peaches and apple sauce. We were excited to be “back in the stands” this morning, watching and cheering for Aaron as he completed an important proficiency test with a therapist … proving that he could both chew and swallow. Of course Aaron nailed it! Battle-hardened by all those timed shuttle runs, endless push-ups, lung-bursting ladders/gassers … Aaron’s competitive spirit will help him recover.

The love is pouring out from people all over the country as well. If you take a look at the guest book found on the website, you will see that people who haven’t even met Aaron Loy are rooting for him. Those who know the family repeatedly say that the family should continue to be “Loy Strong.”

A disease outbreak of this nature might soon be forgotten by those who weren’t affected. While most people will go on with their lives, there are some, like the people injured during the Boston Marathon this year, who cannot. It sometimes feels as thought there is nothing we can do to ease other people’s suffering, but we have to try. By making a donation, or simply reading a blog and commenting, we can show that we remember and are sending our support.

Disease Update

While everyone is hoping that the meningitis outbreak at UCSB has run its course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to ensure that the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, which is not licensed in the United States but has been used in Europe, Australia, Canada, and, most recently, at Princeton University, will be available should the need arise. Stopping the spread of this disease is crucial; three of the four UCSB students who contracted the disease are recovering, however, one has sustained serious and life-changing complications.

In order to keep everyone up to date on the latest news, the CDC has created a webpage to provide information about the UCSB outbreak. It describes who is making decisions regarding the outbreak, details what has already been done, and provides an explanation of the steps that may be taken in the future.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, the California Department of Public Health, UCSB officials, and the CDC have been working together since the outbreak occurred last month to monitor the situation and decide on a course of action. While no new cases have been reported since November, the CDC said it is poised to handle the situation should more cases occur.

According to the CDC website, the organization “is working under the assumption that the vaccine will be needed at UCSB, and taking steps to make it available if that is the case.” The CDC goes on to say, “However, most outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease stop at 3 or 4 cases. Although we cannot predict how the UCSB outbreak will develop over the coming weeks and months, we are hopeful that the outbreak has concluded.” The CDC said that the serogroup B vaccine would be expected to be effective on the ST32 strain, identified as the type found at UCSB.

So far, UCSB students have been provided with antibiotics, advised to avoid behaviors that might transmit the disease, and educated about the symptoms of this type of meningitis and the need for immediate medical care.

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