ASC issues meningitis advisory

(10-28-2011)

An Adams State student is being treated for meningitis, according to Ken Marquez, vice president for Student Affairs. The infected student, who does not reside on campus, appears to have the viral form of the disease, rather than more contagious bacterial form. However, the symptoms of both types are similar, so it is essential for people suspected of having meningitis to seek medical care promptly. Bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in serious long-term effects or death.

"We are working with the Alamosa County Health Department to educate our students about meningitis symptoms and prevention," Marquez said. He suggests that, while not required, students receive the meningococcal vaccination, which is available through a physician or the Health Department.

Disease description

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and occasionally by fungal infection or parasites. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important, because the severity of illness and the treatment differ.

Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of meningitis are high fever, severe headache, and stiff neck. These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take one to two days. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, confusion, and sleepiness. If you suspect you may have meningitis, please see a health care provider immediately.

Treatment

When either form of meningitis is suspected, a sample of the patient's spinal fluid is obtained via a spinal tap and sent to the laboratory for testing. Treatment with antibiotics is begun immediately if bacterial meningitis is suspected. Both types can be contagious.

Bacteria can be spread from person to person by coughing, kissing, sneezing, or activities where saliva and throat secretions are present, such as drinking from the same water bottle.

The meningococcal vaccine protects against one of the most common meningitis bacteria, N. meningitides and is recommended for all youth ages 11 through 18.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis; most patients recover within a few weeks with rest, plenty of fluids, and medications to help with fever and headache.

Precautions

The following measures can help prevent meningitis:

  • * Follow good hygiene practices that reduce the spread of illness
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Clean contaminated surfaces with soap and water, then disinfect with a weak bleach solution
  • Cover your cough
  • Avoid sharing water bottles, chap stick, make-up, etc
  • Get infants and young children their regular immunizations
  • Adolescents and teens ages 11 through age 18 should get meningococcal vaccination

Vaccines & more info

The Alamosa County Public Health Department offers immunizations on Tuesdays from 1-5 p.m. There is a $5 charge to persons aged 11-19 for the meningococcal vaccine and other required childhood vaccines. A limited number of vaccines for persons aged 19-55 are available at no charge. For more information, or to schedule a different vaccine time, contact County Health Nurse Loriann Snow at 587-5191.T

More detailed information about meningitis is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.