Bacterial Meningitis – It’s Serious

Meningitis VaccineA 21 year old student at Franklin Pierce University died last Tuesday night of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis is the swelling of the brain and spinal cord membranes. It can be caused by both a virus and a bacterium. The cause of the disease and what type of bacteria or virus is to blame is important, because it indicates how severe the condition is.

For example; bacterial meningitis is very severe and can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and other serious complications. You can get meningitis through close contact with an infected person by way of their respiratory secretions or saliva. It’s typically passed by sharing a drink, a cigarette, or kissing someone who has it. You can’t get it just by being in the same room as someone who has it. The most common symptoms of bacterial meningitis are: high fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting. Although bacterial meningitis is rare, it’s very serious and can cause serious complications, including death.

There is a vaccine that prevents people from getting certain types of bacterial meningitis, but unfortunately it’s not a national law that everyone get vaccinated. According to the National Conference of Legislatures, “As of 2008, 37 states have one or more laws related to meningitis with the majority of these laws focusing on school requirements.” I have no idea if the young man who died had been vaccinated against meningococcal disease, but I know that even if he was; the vaccine doesn’t protect you against all of the different strains of bacteria that cause it. Like I said before, considering that meningitis is so serious (and spreads so quickly, particularly in close living situations such as college dorms), I think that all college students living on campus should be required to get vaccinated. It could save lives.

Meningitis isn’t spread through casual contact, but if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with meningococcal disease, it’s important to tell your health care provider and get treated with antibiotics. This is true even if you’ve been vaccinated!