Meningitis Vaccine

By: Sarah Rickert
By: Sarah Rickert

Before your college-bound kids head back to campus, it's a good idea to talk to them about getting a meningitis vaccine. The number of cases have doubled in the last 10 years.

College kids are more likely to get the disease because they live in such close quarters.

The symptoms are similar to the flu and difficult to diagnosis. If you have meningitis and wait to long before getting treated, the chance of curing it significantly decreases and the chance of death goes up.

You can get the vaccine from your doctor or the Marshfield Clinic.

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What is Meningitis

  • Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord.

  • Bacterial meningitis is generally more serious.

  • While meningococcal disease is the main cause of bacterial meningitis, there are many other types including pneumococcal, Hib, Group B streptococcal and others.

How do you contract Meningitis

  • At any given time in the U.S., one person in 10 will be carrying the bacteria that can cause meningococcal meningitis or septicaemia.

  • We carry them in the back of our nose and throat without ever realizing they are there.

  • In a few people the bacteria overcome the body’s immune defenses and pass through the lining of the nose and throat into the blood stream.

  • Once in the blood, they can cause two types of infection; meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.

  • Scientists do not yet fully understand why a few people develop meningitis or septicaemia from bacteria, which are harmless to most of us.

  • Statistics show that children under the age of five, and young adults, have a higher risk of developing meningitis or septicaemia, although anyone can get these diseases.

  • The bacteria are very weak and can only survive for a short period of time outside the body.

  • The bacteria cannot live long in the air and are not carried on household objects such as clothes, furniture or toys.

  • To contract meningitis, you must be in very close contact with someone before the bacteria can pass between you, and even then it is unlikely that you will develop meningitis because most of us have natural resistance to the bacteria.

Can Meningitis be treated?

  • Meningitis can be treated. However, because it develops extremely rapidly, it is important to know the signs and symptoms, and to get medical help quickly if you think that someone has either of these diseases.

  • At least 95 percent of people recover from meningococcal meningitis, but the recovery rate in patients with meningococcal septicaemia can be as low as 50 percent, depending on the severity of the disease .

  • Both types of infection can kill very quickly if not recognized and treated in time.

Signs and symptoms of Meningitis

  • Rash (although not present in all cases)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Losing consciousness
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights

Babies may also suffer from:

  • Tense or bulging soft spot on the baby's head
  • Blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue
  • Refusing to feed
  • Irritable when picked up, with a high pitched or moaning cry
  • A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy and lifeless

Source: http://www.meningitis.org/index.html (the Meningitis Research Foundation Web site)