What Is It?

Meningitis is a rare disease that affects the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord that can be caused mainly by viruses and bacteria but can also be caused by a chemical irritation, drug allergies, fungi, and tumors.

Bacterial meningitis is of greatest concern due to the severity of the disease and the serious potentially debilitating effects it can have on the body, including: death, brain damage, and hearing and vision loss.  Fortunately there is a vaccine available and effective treatment for bacterial meningitis.

Viral meningitis is less serious and generally resolves without any specific treatment.

For this reason, the following guidance focuses on bacterial meningitis.

 

Early Symptoms To Watch For:

Fever, Severe Headache, Stiff Neck, Rash, Vomiting

 

How Do People Get It?

Meningococcus is spread from one person to another by sharing saliva.  For example: drink after one another, sharing eating utensils, kissing on the mouth, sharing a cigarette, sharing lipstick and mouth pieces from musical instruments.

People who have recently had a cold or respiratory infection are at higher risk.

 

You Do NOT Get It By:

Meningococcus is not spread by just being in the same room with an infected person, like in a classroom (unless you share saliva with them).  You do not get it by just knowing someone who knows someone who got meningitis.

 

What Do I Do If I Have Symptoms?

If you experience Meningitis symptoms you need to go directly to an Emergency Room.  The infection spreads fast and can be fatal, early treatment is critical!

 

Do I Need Antibiotics Or A Vaccine?

Antibiotics can be given to people to treat the illness and to help prevent Meningitis in close contacts.

The following people are considered close contacts: roommate of infected person, anyone who has kissed the person on the mouth, anyone who has shared a drinking cup or eating utensil with the infected person.  Anyone who has shared a cigarette, lipstick, or used the same mouthpiece as the infected person.

 

College students living in dorms are encouraged to get vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis, and to discuss the vaccine with a physician.  It is important to note that the vaccine is not 100% effective due to various strains of bacteria that can cause the illness and that some strains are not included in the vaccine, much like influenza (flu).  Due to this, students who have been vaccinated may still get meningitis so it is vital to remember the symptoms (fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, vomiting) and go to an ER if you experience them.

The vaccine is offered by the Cabell-Huntington Health Department free of charge for persons between 11 – 19, and students living in dorms.  For more information contact their office at (304) 523-6483, their office is located at 703 7th Avenue in Huntington.

 

Where Do I Go For More Information?

As with any medical issue, you can consult your physician about meningitis and the effectiveness of the vaccine.  Students have access to Student Health Services, located at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Another source of information about meningitis is the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.