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The preventable, but potentially deadly infection you need to know about

We all know it is flu season, but there is another illness that is easily spread from person to person and commonly affects college students.  

Meningitis causes an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria can then transfer into the blood stream, which can cause meningococcemia, a life-threatening infection.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms because they can develop and become serious very quickly:

  • A stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fever and chills
  • Severe headache
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting

Children as young as 2 years old can contract the illness, but it is most common in young people between the ages of 15 and 24. College freshmen have an increased risk of contracting the disease because they are living with so many other students in close quarters, which means infection can travel quickly.

The bacteria are spread through close human contact as well as oral and respiratory secretions. It is especially dangerous because an infected person can be contagious for days before he or she even begins developing symptoms.

In its most serious form, the infection will cause death in one out of seven infected young adults. It can cause serious complications in those who survive the infection, with one in five suffering from neurological problems or requiring an amputation.

Preventing Meningitis

While it is clear that meningitis is very serious, it is preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that young children and people between the ages of 16 and 21 get vaccinated because they are most at risk. There are currently two vaccines available to people between the ages of 2 and 55.

If you or your child has had a vaccination in the past, it is worth talking to your doctor about a booster shot if it has been more than five years. Insurance providers typically cover these immunizations and many doctor’s offices, student health clinics and public health centers provide free shots if you are uninsured.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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