The more you know-Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis (BM) is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.  Although very rare, bacterial meningitis is very deadly. Outbreaks occur where people live in close contact. This includes college campuses. People from many areas gather on college campuses. Many cases are preventable with a series of shots, according to a study by Baker. Knowing this, why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself?

Bacterial meningitis is spread through respiratory secretions. It can be spread through a kiss, cough, sneeze or close contact. Signs include fever, headache and a stiff neck. There are up to 1,000 cases each year in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said South Carolina reported 4 cases per 100,000 people in 2013. This might not sound like a lot; however, 10-15 percent of people who contract meningitis die. According to the CDC, people may die within a few hours of getting sick. Baker said any survivors have lasting disabilities including hearing loss, limb loss, chronic pain, scarring and neurological issues.

According to the National Meningitis Association, due to an increase in vaccinations, cases are down from prior years. However, most students are not covered against all strains. There are many strains of germs that cause meningococcal illness. These bugs include strains A, B, C, W, and Y. Standard shots cover 4 of the 5 strains. However, B is the most likely to cause infection and the only one not covered by basic vaccines, according to Baker.    

There is a vaccine against the B strain that causes meningitis. It is not yet part of the CDC vaccine schedule. Therefore, it is not required for entrance into school. However, according to Baker it is available. Each student is encouraged to talk to his/her doctor about the MnB vaccine. Getting this additional shot could enhance your personal protection against such a dangerous disease, and increasing coverage could further decrease death and disability due to this disease.