Understanding Meningitis Video

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 3,000 cases of meningococcal disease occur each year in the United States. Many of those cases are found in adolescents and young adults, particularly those in the college setting.
Read the full transcript »

Rebecca Fox: Heading off for college is often a time of great excitement and preparation. But if you have not received a meningitis vaccination, health experts say you could be putting your future at risk. Welcome to icyou on topic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 3000 cases of meningococcal disease occur each year in the United States. Many of those cases are found in adolescents and young adults, particularly those in the college setting. So before you grab a sip of your friend's soda, you'll want to learn about the risk from icyou's Medical Editor Dr. Mona Khanna, and Dr. Mona what is meningitis? Dr. Mona Khanna: Well, Rebecca 'itis' stands for inflammation of, and meningis are the covering of the brain and the spinal cord. So meningitis then means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, different from encephalitis where that means inflammation of the brain tissue itself. Rebecca Fox: What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis? Dr. Mona Khanna: Well, there's different types of meningitis, and meningitis can be caused by viruses or it can be caused by bacteria. The ones we are mostly concerned about is the one that's caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. And that's classic sign is a rash, and then the rash is followed by fever, headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sometimes sensitivity to light as well. Those are the classic signs of any type of meningitis, but Neisseria meningitis always has a rash with it. Rebecca Fox: So what are risk factors for meningitis? Dr. Mona Khanna: Well, the most important thing to be careful about is especially in closed confined spaces, or in dormitories, or other situations where people are living closely together, that's why we are so concerned with the college students is not to share drinks, not to share cigarettes and the reason for that is simple, it's because the bacteria is transmitted by droplets. So you can actually be infected by someone who is very close to you, and if the droplets get on to you and you breathe them in that's how you get the infection. That's why we recommend not sharing utensils, water bottles, anything like that with somebody who possibly could be a risk for meningitis. Rebecca Fox: How do you treat it, and what's the prognosis for this? Dr. Mona Khanna: Very, very high doses of antibiotics, that's really the only way to treat any type of infection. The prognosis for Neisseria meningitis specifically is not as great as it is for the others. In other words 10% to 20% of folks who are infected with a Neisseria bacteria, they will actually die. Now other types of meningitis such as that caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, the haemophilus bacteria and others have a little better chance of doing well. The other danger with Neisseria meningitis is that if it gets into the blood, the bacteria gets into the blood, multiplies causes blood poisoning, it can actually corn of certain areas of the body, and that's why some survivors who had had Neisseria meningitis in the past actually need to be amputated in several of their limbs because the bacteria has done its damage in that part of the body. But overall the earlier the diagnosis, the quicker the antibiotics have put into somebody's body, the better the chance of survival, completely intact. Rebecca Fox: And what are the best prevention measures against meningitis? Dr. Mona Khanna: Well, again it's that college age group that we're mostly worried about because they live closely in dorms, have a tendency to share things, utensils, water bottles, coke cans, beer cans, etcetera. So for that age group, recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College Health Association is that college students actually get vaccinated. And there is vaccines for meningitis, unfortunately they're not a 100% protective, but they do a pretty good job. So the vaccination is the best way to protect and prevention of course is top of the list as well. Rebecca

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement