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Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This condition can be caused by several different organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This condition can be caused by several different organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

Viral Meningitis is more common and usually occurs in the late Summer and early Fall. Sometimes, abdominal discomfort, chest pain, or a rash will be present. The central nervous system is involved with possible alteration of consciousness or paralysis; however, these more serious conditions are infrequent. Most cases of viral meningitis run a short, uneventful course. Since this is a virus (like the common cold), antibiotics are not effective. Likewise, persons who have had contact with viral meningitis patients do not require any treatment.

Bacterial Meningitis is a rare disease, but can be very serious and requires treatment with antibiotics. It can occur sporadically throughout the year.

One form of bacterial meningitis is Meningococcal meningitis. This form can cause very grave illness. It requires early diagnosis and treatment. Untreated Meningococcal infection can be fatal.

What are the Symptoms of Meningitis

Sudden onset of:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Neck stiffness

Other symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental state (confusion)

How Does Meningitis Spread?

Meningococcal disease can spread from person-to-person by coughing or coming into close contact with someone who is sick or who carries the bacteria. Close contact includes kissing, sharing drinks/utensils, or living together.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Meningitis

Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and is a medical emergency. Admission to a hospital is necessary and appropriate antibiotic treatment must be started as soon as possible. Initial diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis can be made by clinical examination followed by a lumbar puncture showing a purulent spinal fluid. The bacteria can sometimes be seen in microscopic examinations of the spinal fluid.

Is There A Meningitis Vaccine?

Yes. The meningococcal vaccine can be effective in preventing four types of meningococcal disease. Maryland law requires that all students, graduate and undergraduate, enrolled at the University and who reside in campus housing have the Meningococcal vaccine (Conjugate vaccine, Menactra® or Menveo®) given at age 16 or older, or a signed waiver on file in Student Health Services.

Student Health Services also recommends Meningococcal vaccine for Sero Group B (Bexsero® or Trumenba®) for students residing in campus housing.

Fast Facts

The single best way to prevent this disease is to be vaccinated. About 10 to 15 in 100 people with meningococcal disease will die. Up to 1 in 5 survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as:

  • Loss of limb(s)
  • Deafness
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Brain or Kidney damage

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