Meningitis

by Leslie Oliver

Get SMART about Meningitis

Visit the website Voices of Meningitis to learn more about the importance of getting the Menningococcal vaccine.  Click on the link below.

Voices of Meningitis

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

 

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease, commonly known as meningococcal meningitis, is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a serious blood infection (meningococcemia).  The disease affects nearly 3,000 Americans annually.  Approximately 10 percent of those who contract the disease will die.  Of those who survive, nearly 20 percent suffer long-term disabilities, including brain damage, loss of hearing, organ failure and limb amputations.

 

Why are teenagers and college students at risk for meningococcal disease?

Anyone can contract meningococcal disease.  However, studies show that teenagers and college students may be at increased risk for contracting the disease.  In fact, teenagers and college students account for nearly 30 percent of all cases of reported meningococcal infection in the U.S.  The good news is that up to 83 percent of meningococcal disease cases among teenagers and college students may potentially be prevented through immunization.

 

Risk factors commonly associated with meningococcal disease include:

  • Crowded living conditions (e.g., dormitories, sleep-away camps)
  • Active or passive smoking
  • Irregular sleeping patterns

 

How does the disease spread?  

Meningococcal disease is spread through air droplets and by direct contact with secretions from infected persons (e.g., through coughing, kissing).  Teenagers and college students can reduce the risk of transmitting the disease by being immunized.

 

What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is often misdiagnosed as something less serious, because early symptoms are similar to the flu and may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, exhaustion and/or a rash.  Not all of these symptoms need to be present.  Due to the commonality of these symptoms to less serious viral infections, disease prevention is critical. 

Left untreated, meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and often within hours of the first symptoms, can lead to serious complications, including brain damage, loss of hearing, organ failure and limb amputations.