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Four California students sickened with meningitis bacteria

The students, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, were all sickened within a three-week period last month with the disease, a sometimes fatal illness that can affect the brain or the blood, according to a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health.

They were stricken by a form of the bacteria that does not respond to the meningitis vaccine currently approved for use in the United States, said the spokeswoman, Susan Klein-Rothschild.

A vaccine known to be effective against this form of meningitis is approved for use in Europe, and Santa Barbara public health officials were in discussions with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about using it to protect students at the California university.

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