There are occasionally stories in the news about meningitis outbreaks. They usually take place in colleges and universities. A healthy student will end up dead quickly from this killer disease. It doesn’t have to happen.
What is Meningitis? According to the dictionary, meningitis is a swelling of the meninges. As these surround the brain and the spine, it is a very serious and sometimes deadly condition. It can be from both bacteria and viruses. There have also been cases of fungal, parasite and swelling caused by noninfectious means. The latter includes swelling caused by brain injuries.
What are the Symptoms? A severe headache is a common symptom. This can continue on to lethargy, convulsions, coma and death. A friend of mine also had a stroke while dealing with this disease.
Who is likely to get it? The illness can be spread via droplets (coughing and sneezing) and by close contact. This makes schools of any sort a possible problem. It is also why those who go on to higher education are very at risk. Most outbreaks I’ve read about are at colleges and universities.
Can it be Prevented? There is a vaccine that can protect against some forms of meningitis. Other ways of prevention are fairly standard: frequent hand washing, coughing and sneezing into the elbow rather than the hand, no food sharing and so forth.
What should I do if I think someone has it? Get to the hospital immediately. This is a life or death disease and the faster treatment begins, the better the odds are. You may need to call 911, especially if convulsions are involved.
What is the Outcome? You can read statistics, but they don’t make it real for everyone. I’ve seen what meningitis can do…twice. The first person, mentioned above, was permanently disabled at a young age (early twenties) from this illness. The stroke left him partially paralyzed on the right side of his body. Walking was particularly difficult.
The other person was a caregiver for our elder. His case was fungal, and fortunately no one caught it from him. He is more fortunate. He will have a long recovery but it should be a fairly complete recovery. He is a good example of the importance of getting help early.
The best thing to do is encourage vaccination. When the outcome of the disease is disability and death, prevention is important. If you are a college student, talk to your campus medical office about it. If you’re a parent, contact your doctor for more information. It could save a life.