Syracuse UniversityHealth Services

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Meningitis

Did you know?

  • Meningitis strikes about 3,000 Americans each year and claims as many as 300 lives.
  • Between 100 and 125 cased occur on college campuses every year.
  • 5 to 15 college students die each year as a result.
  • Cases among teenagers and young adults have more than doubled since 1991.
  • The frequency of outbreaks has risen at U.S. colleges and universities during the 1990’s.

What is meningitis?

  • Meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection.
  • It can occur in two forms, as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation that affects the brain and spinal cord, or as meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in the blood.
  • Permanent brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability, limb amputation, kidney failure, or death can result from the infections.

What causes meningitis?

  • The infectious disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides, a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in older children and your adults in the U.S.

Is there a vaccine to help prevent meningitis?

  • A safe, effective vaccine is available.
  • The vaccine is 85% to 100% effective in preventing four kinds of bacteria (serogroups A, C. Y. W-135) that cause about 70% of the disease in the U.S.
  • The vaccine is safe, with mild and infrequent side effects, such as redness and pain at the injection site lasting up to 2 days.
  • After vaccination, immunity develops within 7 to 10 days and remains effective for approximately 3 to 5 years. As with any vaccine, vaccinations against meningitis may not protect 100% of all susceptible individuals.

Is vaccination recommended for college students?

  • Certain college students, particularly freshmen who live or plan to live in dormitories or residence halls, have a 6-fold increased risk of disease.
  • The American College Health Association (ACHA) has adopted the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which starts that college students, particularly freshmen living in dormitories and residence halls, be educated about meningococcal meningitis and the potential benefits of vaccination.
  • Other undergraduate students wishing to reduce their risk of meningitis can also choose to be vaccinated.

Early symptoms of meningitis

  • high fever
  • rash
  • vomiting
  • severe headache
  • neck stiffness
  • lethargy
  • nausea
  • sensitivity to light
  • Meningitis usually peaks in late winter and early spring, overlapping flu season, and symptoms can easily be mistaken for the flu.
  • Because the infection progresses quickly, students should seek medical care immediately if 2 or more of these symptoms occur at one time.
  • If untreated, meningitis can lead to shock and death within hours of the first symptom.