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There have now been a total of three students at the University of Otago college diagnosed with the condition this year; two receiving diagnoses of the same strain of the disease in March and May. The disease can potentially lead to either meningitis or blood poisoning. This week, another university student was diagnosed with the condition. That case was not linked to the ones at Studholme. Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Keith Reid was at the college yesterday evening with medical professionals who were giving out the antibiotics.
"The action that we’ve taken is a significant ramping up of our response," he said.
Offering antibiotics en masse was something the DHB had not done since two pupils were diagnosed with meningococcal disease at Mount Aspiring College, two years ago. Staff and students at Studholme were "appropriately concerned", but had been advised to go about their tasks as usual, remain vigilant and look after each other. Both students recently affected were doing well in Dunedin Hospital.
Antibiotics had also been offered to close contacts of the Studholme College student, to reduce the risk of further cases. It was not yet known whether the third student had the same bacterial strain as the other two.
"To have two or more people unwell with meningococcal disease in a college is rare," Dr Reid said.
"If only one student developed meningococcal disease the risk to everyone else is no different than usual.
"In this circumstance however, where two students had developed the same strain of meningococcal disease and a third is possible, the risk to others is increased."
The university declined to comment further. Dr Reid was not able to provide information about the gender or age of the patients, but said they were in their first year at university. First-year students, who came from different parts of the country and were living in a fairly confined environment, tended to be more susceptible, he said.