Meningitis can affect anyone of all ages, shapes, and sizes, but it especially targets those living in close quarters such as college resident halls! It is vital that you be aware of what meningitis is, and how it could potentially affect your life.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges, which are the 3 layers of protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
This infection can be caused by either bacteria or virus. The virus form is the most common, and presents itself with flu-like symptoms. There are no medications to treat the virus; the body instead usually fights it off on its own within a week or two. Bacterial is a much more aggressive form of meningitis. This form can present itself in a matter of hours and the impact can be catastrophic. Antibiotics and often hospitalizations are often needed if bacterial meningitis is suspected.
There are three forms of meningitis which we are most familiar with.
1. Haemophilus influenzae type B– can cause pneumonia, throat swelling, as well as infect the blood, bones, joints, and heart. It can also cause blindness, deafness, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and death.
2. Pneumococcus– causes high fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light.
3. Meningococcus– symptoms can start suddenly or develop slowly over a few days; causing high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, sleepiness, seizures, or a red/purple rash all over the body.
Symptoms will vary, depending on the type of meningitis you are dealing with but these are common symptoms to look for:
• Stiff Neck
• Red or Purple Rashes All Over the Body
• Severe Headache
• Sensitivity to Light
• Flu-Like Symptoms
Meningitis can be prevented. Meningitis is most often spread through saliva (spit). Prevent infection by limiting contact with others through kissing, coughing, and avoid sharing cups, utensils, and anything else that comes in contact with someone else’s mouth. Also, be sure you wash your hands often.
Vaccinations are available against most strains of this disease, are your best bet for protection. If you were 16 or younger when you were vaccinated, it is strongly recommended that you get a booster vaccine for maximum protection.
If you have not been vaccinated, or if you need a booster vaccine, contact your family doctor for an appointment. You can also be vaccinated at Student Health Services. http://www.wcupa.edu/_services/stu.inf/health/immunizations.asp
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Written by DeVonna Smith, Peer Educator