I am a Senior in Rocklin High School, CA. Just last month, I heard that a student had Meningitis in my school and she had to go to the hospital for the treatment. And then I heard that a student in another high school Next City to us died because of that. Every body was just shocked. We were getting flyers that had all the information to give to our parents. Even I wasn't aware of that. I had a lot of questions in my mind that actually what is it (Meningitis) and why is it? Why is it serious? Why that student had to go to the hospital and why it just killed the other student. Even it was on TV. News. Everybody had that question? Now I am ready for the college and I often get letters from Meningitis Foundation of America, Inc. telling about it. I didn't know that college students are at increased risk for this serious bacterial infection.

Meningococcal meningitis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection. This disease is most commonly expressed as Meningitis, and causes the brain and spinal cord damage, hearing loss, learning ability, organ failure, loss of limbs or death.  It's occurrence is very rare though, but symptoms can progress rapidly and often resemble the flu. It is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the Meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. 

Those students who were in contact of the infected students also had to go to the doctors for check ups because who have been in close contact within 7 days prior to the illness to the infected person. For example: day-care or nursery school contacts, or those who have been exposed to oral secretions as in kissing or sharing beverages, food or cigarettes can also get the same disease. Research suggests lifestyle behaviors common among college students, such as smoking, bar patronage and dormitory style living, may contribute to the increased risk. The disease progresses rapidly within few hours of the first symptoms. 

I got the following answers for some questions: 

1. What is Meningococcal Meningitis? 
– Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This condition can be caused by several different organisms such as bacteria and viruses. 

2. What causes it? 
– Meningococcal Meningitis is caused by the bacterium Neisseria Meningitides, a leading cause of Meningitis and/ or blood poisoning in teenagers and young adults in the United States. 

3. How the Individual gets affected? 
– Meningococcal bacteria cannot usually live for more than a few minutes outside the body. They are usually not transmitted in water supplies, swimming pools, or by routine contact in classrooms, dining rooms, bars, restrooms, etc., where an infected individual has been. Roommates, friends, spouses, and children who are not directly exposed to an ill meningitis victim are not at risk. 

4. How does Meningococcal Meningitis spread? 
– Meningococcal meningitis is transmitted through air droplets and direct contact with infected persons. It occurs most often in late winter and early spring - at a time when most college students are away at school.

5. Why is it so dangerous? 
– It is relatively rare. Therefore, we may not consider the possibility of contracting Meningitis and may ignore early symptoms and signs. In the rare instances when the Meningococcus organism invades the bloodstream, it can be carried to other organs including the eyes, heart, lungs, and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). 

6. What are the symptoms of Meningococcal Meningitis? 
– Symptoms of Meningococcal meningitis is often misdiagnosed as something less serious. Symptoms can resemble the flu and may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion and/or a rash.  If not detected early, the disease can progress. 

Certain college students have been found to be at increased risk for Meningococcal Meningitis. In fact, freshmen living in dormitories are found to have a six-fold increased risk for the disease compared to all undergraduates. AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) now recommend college students, particularly freshman living in dormitories, learn more about Meningococcal Meningitis and consider vaccination. They also recommend that other college students who wish to reduce their risk for the disease should also be vaccinated. 

Studies show 15 to 24 years olds are at greater risk of getting Meningococcal Meningitis, and in recent years there has been an increase in the number of college outbreaks. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend college students, particularly freshman living in dormitories, be educated about Meningococcal Meningitis and the potential benefits of vaccination. These groups further advise that immunization should be provided or made easily available to those who wish to reduce their risk for the disease. The Meningococcal vaccine is available against four types of the bacterium Neisseria Meningitides that causes Meningococcal Meningitis in the United States- serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135. These four serogroups account for nearly two- thirds of the cases of Meningococcal Meningitis in the college-age population. The vaccine can be used in adults and children 2 years old and above. The vaccine is 85 to 100 percent effective in preventing Meningococcal Meningitis in serogroups A, C, Y and W-135 in older children and adults. Protection lasts approximately three to five years- the length of time most students are away at college.

People suspecting that they may have been exposed to Meningitis, displaying the signs or Symptoms described above or people who have had close bodily contact with anyone diagnosed with the disease should consult a physician at the earliest opportunity. 

Meningitis can be a life-threatening illness that may progress rapidly. Caution is urged and appropriate assessment and treatment recommended. Do not wait. Seek immediate medical attention for the sick person. Remember to ask the doctor about care of household members. Also MFA (Meningitis Foundation of America) provides education to the public and medical professionals about meningitis so that its early diagnosis and treatment will save lives. 


More by :  Rhea Resham Singh

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