Quarantines in Newark and Princeton

Recently, there have been concerns that Ebola, the deadly virus that erupted in West Africa causing hemorrhagic fever, has made its way to Newark, New York, and Princeton. One such story is that of Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox who has been placed in quarantine for 21 days at the University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey because she helped to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. However, she has been tested and has not contracted the disease. Still, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo require that anyone has who worked with or come into contact with Ebola patients must be quarantined, no matter how healthy they may appear.

This policy came into being after a recent New York City doctor was diagnosed with Ebola on October 23. Continue reading

Uncertainty of Ebola Concerns Princeton Citizens, Prompts Policies

The Ebola outbreak has resulted in global panic, making citizens question the safety of everything from public transportation to crowded events. Recent developments have brought the crisis directly to Princeton.

On October 1st, NBC cameraman Alexander Mukpo contracted Ebola while cleaning a car that had transported dead Ebola victims in Liberia. Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the CDC on the Approval of New Meningitis Vaccine

Last year, almost all of the Princeton students received two doses of the meningitis B vaccine called Bexsero, which was developed by Novartis. Bexsero, while not formally approved by the FDA in the US, had been approved in other nations globally and as a result, was recommended by the CDC and FDA for use to control the Princeton outbreak. Data was also collected by Princeton and CDC on the effect of the vaccine on the Princeton outbreak.

However, recently, the FDA approved Trumenba, developed by Pfizer, as a vaccine for meningitis B. At the same time, Bexsero, used at Princeton, has still not been approved by the FDA. Why has the vaccine which was used not only at Princeton but also as UCSB not approved by the FDA? Does data suggest that Trumenba performs better than Bexsero? Or are there other reasons behind approving Trumenba?

Below is a Q&A with Dr. Manisha Patel, who has been involved been involved with the Princeton meningitis outbreak. The discussion focuses on the differences between the two vaccines, reasons why Bexsero was recommended for the Princeton outbreak and reasons why Trumenba was approved first by the FDA.

PPHR: What makes meningitis B so difficult to vaccinate against? I understand that in morbidity and mode of transmission, all serogroups of meningitis are relatively similar.

PATEL: The main question is “Why don’t we have a meningitis B vaccine when vaccines for serogroups A, C, W and Y are available?” Continue reading

Approving Trumenba: Why Not Bexsero?

DSC03308-C2-PURPLELast Wednesday, the FDA approved a vaccine for Meningitis B1,2, the same strain of bacterial meningitis that Princeton students faced last year. Yet the newly-approved drug is not Novartis’ Bexsero, which thousands of students at Princeton and UCSB have received in the past year. Instead, the FDA approved Pfizer’s Trumenba. This forces us to wonder why the FDA decided to approve Trumenba first, even though Bexsero has now been used safely and effectively in the United States and is approved in Canada, Europe, and Australia3.

The most straightforward explanation for the earlier approval of Trumenba is that Pfizer filed for approval before Novartis4. Continue reading

A Critical Look at Bexsero

Although a host of different bacteria, viruses, and fungi can all potentially cause the onset of meningitis, the eight Princeton cases have all been determined to be the work of N. meningitides serotype B1. In a void of FDA approved vaccines, the University is turning to Bexsero, the work of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Because, left untreated, the effects of meningitis can escalate to permanent brain damage, hearing loss, and death2, there has been clear opportunity for vaccine development to reduce this risk. Continue reading

The Benefits of Bexsero at Princeton

In the past few weeks, Princeton University has found itself a hot topic in the media for what has now been described as an outbreak of meningitis B1. Although Princeton currently requires all students to be vaccinated against meningitis, the current vaccine does not protect against serogroup B. There is no currently approved vaccine against serogroup B, but Bexsero, a Novartis-produced vaccine that has been licensed in Europe and Australia, has been granted special approval for use on our campus, due to the nature of the outbreak.

It has been particularly difficult to make a vaccine against meningitis serogroup B. Continue reading

Why an Outbreak at Princeton?

For the past nine months, Princeton University has been trying to halt an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in its students without success. Since bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord that can cause brain damage and death, having it on campus is no small matter.

The situation at Princeton, where eight students have fallen ill, has had students thinking — why is the meningitis outbreak at Princeton? Continue reading

Meningitis Outbreak on the Princeton Campus

On Friday, November 22, the eighth case of meningitis was reported at Princeton University. This case, like the seven previous ones confirmed at Princeton over the past nine months, was shown to be caused by a rare meningococcal bacterium known as serotype B. While this may be regarded as a small number in a campus of 5,000 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students, what worries public health officials is that meningitis is a rare disease.  Moreover, group B is particularly rare in the United States.

Meningitis is generally characterized as the inflammation of a membrane that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Continue reading