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UO ramps up vaccinations against meningitis

EUGENE, Ore. - Lauren Jones showed flu-like symptoms before the 18-year-old student-athlete died Tuesday.

Lane County Public Health said it is possible investigators will never know Jones she had meningococcemia.

It's sometimes too complicated to get definitive test results after a patient has died.

Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health said students need to be aware but not overly alarmed. The infection is harder to transmit than the flu or common cold.

"We're ramping up our efforts and being able to take people's calls, address their concerns as well as do our contact investigation, all this despite having no confirmation," he said.

Staff, faculty and students continue to mourn the loss of the freshmen from Georgia.

Jones was on the acrobatics and tumbling team and lived on campus in Barnhart Hall.

The cause of her death is unknown, but after three confirmed cases of meningococcemia since January, the university isn't ruling that out.

"It is during the general time period as the other students who had been diagnosed with the precursor to meningitis, so it is a concern on the campus," said Julie Brown with the University.

UO has administered preventative antiobiotics to hundreds of students.

At least 80 have received a vaccine aimed to prevent bacterial meningococcemia.

"We had been in the process since the last case of encouraging students to get vaccinated, and really the vaccination is to protect the overall community over a longer period of time," said Mike Eyster, director of the University of Oregon health center.

Eyster said the CDC endorsed the UO offering vaccinations against meningitis.

Vaccines are offered at the health center, with plans to hold a clinic very soon.

"Ramping up to a larger situation where we might be able to administer more at one time, that's in the planning stages right now," he said.

The school has also started a campaign warning students about the dangers of close contact and sharing.

"Because we know that close contact sometimes can mean sharing food or even sharing toothbrushes, things as simple as that," Eyster said. "Not trying to cause panic, but to also provide people with the message that this is an important thing. It's serious."

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