About Meningitis

About Meningitis

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. Meningitis may result from to a number of causes, usually bacterial or viral infections, but also from injury, cancer or certain drugs.


bacterial meningitis

Meningitis that is caused by bacteria like Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcus pneumonia is often severe and can be life-threatening. Young adults living in group housing, such as on a college campus or in military barracks, are at risk for bacterial meningitis.

How is it transmitted?

Bacterial meningitis is transmitted by direct contact with large-droplet respiratory tract secretions (saliva or spit) from persons with meningococcal disease. Sharing cups, water bottles, utensils, cigarettes and hookahs increases the risk of transmission. Close personal contact (e.g. kissing) increases the risk of transmission. Close contacts include individuals sharing close spaces such as family members, teammates, and roommates. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Signs & Symptoms

Bacterial meningitis includes sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. Additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), rash, and altered mental status (confusion), may also present.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure. Please call Student Health Service at 215.746.3535, press 1 to speak with a nurse, if you think you may have been in contact with someone who has bacterial meningitis and you develop these signs.

Treatment

Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible. In the event of an exposure to someone with bacterial meningitis prophylactic antibiotics are available.

Prevention

Vaccination is the most effective way to protect oneself against bacterial meningitis.  Penn requires all full-time students less than or equal to the age 21 to be vaccinated, as well as any student living on campus. The meningococcal vaccine (e.g. Menactra or Menveo) only protects against certain strains (i.e. strains A,C,Y, and W-135). There is a separate vaccine for B-strain meningococcal disease that is not currently recommended by the CDC for routine use. 

Maintain healthy habits, like frequent hand washing, not smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest, and not coming into close contact with people who are sick.

If you think you have bacterial meningitis or have been in close contact with someone who has bacterial meningitis, please contact Student Health Service 215-746-3535, press option 1 to speak with a nurse.

For more information, vist CDC.gov.


B-Strain Meningococcal Disease

B-strain meningococcal disease accounts for approximately half of all meningococcal cases among persons aged 17-22 years of age in the U.S. This age group is commonly found in institutional settings like college campuses.

How is it transmitted?

B-strain meningococcal disease is transmitted by direct contact with large-droplet respiratory tract secretions (saliva or spit) from persons with meningococcal disease. Sharing cups, water bottles, utensils, cigarettes and hookahs increases the risk of transmission. Close personal contact (e.g. kissing) increases the risk of transmission. Close contacts include individuals sharing close spaces such as family members, teammates, and roommates. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of B-strain meningococcal disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. Additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), rash and altered mental status (confusion), may also present.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure. Please call Student Health Service at 215.746.3535, press 1 to speak with a nurse, if you think you may have been in contact with someone who has bacterial meningitis and you develop these signs.

Treatment

Early diagnosis is very important so that treatment can be started as soon as possible. B-strain meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics.In the event of an exposure to someone with B-strain meningococcal disease prophylactic antibiotics are available.

Prevention

There are vaccines (i.e. Bexsero and Trumenba) that protect against B-strain meningococcal disease. However, the vaccines are not currently recommended for routine use in college students living in residence halls, military recruits, or all adolescents. The CDC does not currently recommend B-strain  meningococcal disease vaccination for routine use.

SHS will have both vaccines available. However, there is no PSIP coverage except for those students in the following categories:

  • People with persistent complement component deficiencies;
  • People with anatomic or functional asplenia;
  • Microbiologists who are regularly exposed to Neisseria meningitidis; or
  • People at increased risk following an outbreak of B-strain meningococcal disease.

Maintain healthy habits, like frequent hand washing, not smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest, and not coming into close contact with people who are sick.

If you think you have meningitis or have been in close contact with someone who has B-strain meningococcal disease, please contact Student Health Service 215-746-3535.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal.html


Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis and is caused by a variety of viruses. Meningitis is an inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis is often less severe than bacterial meningitis, and most people usually get better on their own (without treatment).

How is it transmitted?

If you have close contact with a person who has viral meningitis, you may become infected with the virus that made that person sick. You are not likely to develop meningitis as a complication of the illness.

Signs & Symptoms

Viral meningitis includes sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. Additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), rash, sleepiness or trouble waking up from sleep, lack of appetite, and lack of energy, may also present.

Treatment

Viral meningitis usually resolves with self-care treatment within 7-10 days. Individuals with meningitis caused by certain viruses (e.g. herpesvirus) may benefit from antiviral medication. Self-care options include:

  • Manage your fever and pain with acetaminophen (325mg "non-aspirin," regular strength, 2-3 tabs) every 4-6 hours (not to exceed 3000mg in 24/hours) OR ibuprofen (200 mg, 2-3 tabs) ever 6-8 hours with food. You may alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen every 3 hours
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of clear liquids (water, ginger ale, sport drinks, etc.)
  • Get plenty of rest

If you have trouble breathing, chest pain, suffer a relapse (begin to feel much worse after having felt better), severe headache and/or neck pain/stiffness, confusion, lethargy, severe or persistent vomiting please call Student Health at 215-746-3535 and press option 1 to speak with a nurse.

Prevention

There are no vaccines to protect against viral meningitis specifically. However, there are vaccines that protect against diseases such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, and influenza, which can lead to viral meningitis.

Maintain healthy habits, like frequent hand washing, not smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest, and not coming into close contact with people who are sick.

Practice good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow

If you think you have viral meningitis, please contact Student Health Service 215-746-3535, press option 1 to speak with a nurse.

For more information, visit CDC.gov.


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(updated 7/6/2015)