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Meningitis

What is meningococcal meningitis?

Meningitis is rare.  But when it strikes, this potentially fatal bacterial disease can lead to swelling of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column as well as severe and permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, brain damage, seizures, limb amputation, and even death.

How is it spread? Meningococcal meningitis is spread through the air via respiratory secretions or close contact with an infected person. This can include coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing items like utensils, cigarettes and drinking glasses.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis often resemble the flu and can include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, sensitivity to light, and confusion.  Because the infection progresses quickly, students should seek medical care immediately if two or more of these symptoms occur at one time. If untreated, meningitis can lead to shock and death within hours of the first symptoms.

Who is at risk?

Meningitis can strike at any age; however, certain groups have a greater risk for contracting the disease. Certain college students, particularly freshmen who live in dormitories or residence halls, have been found to have an increased risk for meningococcal meningitis. Center for Disease (CDC) recommendations include being vaccinated before entering college.

Others at risk include anyone in close contact with a known case, anyone with an upper respiratory infection with a compromised immune system, and anyone traveling to endemic areas of the world where meningitis is prevalent.

Can meningitis be prevented?

Yes. A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect against four of the five most common strains of the disease. The vaccine provides protection for approximately three to five years. As with any vaccine, vaccination against meningitis may not protect 100 percent of all susceptible individuals.

For more information:

To learn more about meningitis and the vaccine, check with the Aggie Health and Wellness Center at 3080 Breland Drive, (575) 646-1512. Visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at  www.cdc.gov and the American College Health Association at www.acha.org.