Why Meningitis Travels Fast and How You Can Prevent It

If you attended summer camp as a child or lived on campus during your college years, you likely had to get vaccinated. One of those required vaccines: meningitis. That’s because meningitis, which is more common among children and young adults, can easily spread through coughing, sneezing or even kissing. The close quarters of a dorm or camp can make spreading this disease all the more likely. But what is meningitis, you wonder? And how can you prevent it?

What Is Meningitis?
An inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, meningitis can be caused by a virus or a bacterium. While a viral infection is most common in the U.S., bacterial meningitis can have very serious complications. These include hearing loss , brain damage and learning problems. Even with treatment, bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening.

What’s more, you can prevent bacterial meningitis by getting vaccinated. However, as more and more families decide against vaccinating their children, a preventable form of meningitis persists. To learn more about prevention, see below.

The severity of meningitis can escalate very quickly. If you or someone in your family has the telltale signs and symptoms, don’t wait! You should seek medical care right away.

What are the signs and symptoms, you ask? Check it out:

The Symptoms of Meningitis
The most common signs of meningitis include:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • High fever that comes on suddenly

However, these other symptoms may be present:

  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or extreme sleepiness
  • Red or purple skin rash
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or someone you know has or thinks he or she has meningitis, it’s important to seek medical care right away. The doctor will find out whether the disease is present and if the source is viral or bacterial. Viral meningitiscan go away on its own, but doctors need to treat bacterial meningitis with intravenous antibiotics. Serious cases may require intensive care. Delayed treatment for bacterial meningitis can increase the risk of permanent brain damage or death. Prompt diagnosis and treatment give you or your loved one a better chance for complete recovery.

Meningitis Prevention
There is good news! Many forms of meningitis can be prevented by getting vaccinated as recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis. These vaccines are safe and effective. Different vaccines are given to infants and young children, preteens and teens, and college freshmen who have not been previously vaccinated.

As for most viruses, there are no vaccines for viral meningitis, but you can reduce your risk for infection by practicing good hygiene and washing your hands regularly. You should also avoid kissing or sharing glasses or eating utensils with someone who is sick.

Finally, if you or your family has not yet been vaccinated for meningitis, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend the best course of prevention to keep you healthy.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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