Let’s talk about shots: Meningitis

U-News Staff

Recently, a classmate asked me if she needed a vaccine for meningitis. That’s a question all college students should ask their doctors.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal column. It can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. Viral meningitis rarely leads to complications in healthy adults, but it is painful and treatment can reduce symptoms.

Bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis is a serious disease with a high complication rate that includes death in 10-15 percent of cases. Meningococcal disease is more commonly diagnosed among infants, adolescents, and young adults 16 through 21 years of age.  It is spread by respiratory droplets — coughing, sneezing, kissing — and infects quickly wherever large groups of people gather together. As a result, first-year college students living in residence halls are at increased risk compared with other persons of the same age. This was the case in an epidemic at Princeton University in early 2014.

The symptoms of meningitis may be confused with the flu. Nausea, vomiting, headache and high fever are most common, with neck stiffness and confusion happening later. Early diagnosis and treatment with powerful antibiotics are important in avoiding complications. See a doctor for these symptoms.

Fortunately, there is a safe and effective vaccine available that protects against the most common strains of N. meningitidis. It is recommended for ages 11-21, and available through UMKC Student Health. Many universities, including UMKC, require the vaccine if you live on campus, but local commuter students may not be aware of the value of this vaccine.

Winter is the prime season for bacterial meningitis. If you haven’t received the vaccine and are a young adult, think seriously about getting it. Meningitis is definitely a disease to avoid.

Get the scoop here: http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html