Meningitis: What You Need to Know

There’s currently an outbreak of meningitis on the Princeton and University of California at Santa Barbara campuses, causing Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to work on importing a European vaccine as soon as possible.

Meningitis is not common, but we often hear of cases on college campuses, where students live in close quarters. While it doesn’t spread easily, it is a serious disease.

According to CDC, meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, which is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. There are actually five different types of meningitis: viral, parasitic, fungal, non-infectious and bacterial. Bacterial is the most serious, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Having been dubbed “the kissing disease,” bacterial meningitis can be spread through throat secretions. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or breathing the air with someone with meningitis has been. Still, if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with meningitis, it’s important to see a doctor – you may need antibiotics.

Infants, people with weak immune systems and people living in close quarters (dorms, military bases) are at a higher risk of getting the disease.

Early signs of infection are sudden onset of fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion. Treating the disease takes antibiotics, which must be started as soon as possible. There are also vaccines available for three types of bacterial meningitis.

Each year in the U.S., about 4,100 people get bacterial meningitis and 500 die.



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Liz Hayes
Liz loves spending time outdoors, working out, traveling, taking in the arts, reading and catching up on TV.
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