Meningitis Worries on Campus

Health officials at Florida State University are urging college students to get vaccinated because bacterial meningitis outbreaks have occurred recently in Leon County.

There is not a threat of the disease right now, but health officials at FSU say they want students to be aware of the disease and how severe it can be, and officials also want to clear a misconception that only students who live in dorms are at risk.

There were two cases of bacterial meningitis among FSU students in the last year, one of them fatal. It's something some students say they vaguely remember.

Mariella Hesa, an FSU student, says, "I just heard someone died. I was at TCC at the time. It was on the news and all of our teachers were like ‘you need to get your shots.’"

That's the same message officials are getting out early this year. For orientation, pamphlets were handed out informing students about the risks of the disease.

Leslie Sacher, director of Thagard Student Health Center, says, "This disease is dreadful because it's so fast acting. You can feel like you have symptoms of the flu and three hours later a student could be coded in the hospital."

Health officials at FSU highly recommend all students, not just those who live in dormitories, to get vaccinated for the disease, because last year’s fatal case of bacterial meningitis happened off campus.

"All students who are in unfamiliar places where they could share eating utensils, alcohol, being in a bar where smoking increases the risk of bacteria being passed, those are the conditions that breed this," adds Sacher.

Some students heeded the warning and have already been vaccinated

Sacher says, "The virus is out there, so the idea of the true prevention, at least 60 percent, is the vaccine."

The disease is spread only through saliva, not through casual contact.

The vaccine is $70 at FSU's Thagard Health Center and is good for five years. Officials at FAMU recommend their incoming freshmen get the vaccine. Extended Web Coverage

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: (the Meningitis Research Foundation Web site)