What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation and infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord caused by either a virus or bacteria.
 
Viral Meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis and usually occurs in late spring and summer. Signs and symptoms of viral meningitis may include stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting and rash. Most cases of viral meningitis run a short, uneventful course. Since the causative agent is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Persons who have had contact with an individual with viral meningitis do not require any treatment.
 
Bacterial Meningitis occurs rarely and sporadically throughout the year, although outbreaks tend to occur in late winter and early spring. Bacterial meningitis in college aged students may be due to an organism called meningococcal bacteria. Because meningococcal meningitis can cause grave illness and rapidly progress to death, it requires early diagnosis and treatment. Persons who have had intimate contact with someone who has been diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis should seek immediate medical attention so they may get preventive therapy, which is a course of antibiotics.
 
Where does it come from?
The meningococcal bacterial is found in nasal and oral secretions. People may harbor this organism and never become ill, while others can become very sick, which can lead to death.
 
How is it transmitted?
This organism can be transmitted through close personal contact such as sharing eating or drinking utensils, kissing on the lips, sharing chap-stick or lip gloss, sharing cigarettes/cigars/pipes and through sneezing or coughing. Risk factors also include habits which decrease the immune system: Smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of sleep or proper nutrition and stress.
 
How often are cases severe?
Most people who become infected simply carry the organism harmlessly, without illness, and eliminate it from the nose and throat within a short time by developing natural immunity. At any one time, up to 10% of the normal population may be found carrying meningococcus without illness or symptoms.
 
Very rarely, an individual may develop an illness with signs and symptoms of fever, headache, and stiff neck, sometimes with a rash or vomiting, and sometimes with fatigue or change in consciousness or awareness of their surroundings. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical evaluation.
 
Preventive Measures
Familiarize yourself with the risk factors and means or transmission. Wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Get lots of sleep, exercise and nutritious food which will boost your immune system. Finally, if you drink alcohol, do so responsibly and in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption is believed by some health authorities to increase susceptibility to meningococcal meningitis.
 
Meningitis Vaccine (Quadrivalent)
The American College Health Association recommends that all college students under the age of 30 become knowledgeable about the vaccine and consider getting vaccinated against meningococcal disease. Pennsylvania law mandates all students either receive the vaccine or sign a waiver.
 
The vaccine protects against four out of 5 serotypes (subtypes) of meningitis. The vaccine decreases the risk of meningococcal disease, and overall is 80%- 90% effective; however, effectiveness of the vaccine (production of antibodies) wains within 5 years following vaccination. Therefore, revaccination is encouraged for entering college students who were vaccinated before age 16. As with any vaccine, the meningitis vaccine may not protect 100% of susceptible individuals.
 
Meningitis B Vaccine

Serogroup B is the most common cause of meningococcal disease in US adolescents and young adults. Parents may think their children are protected against meningococcal disease because they received the routinely recommended quadrivalent vaccine (ACWY) but, that vaccine does not protect against serogroup B disease.  Meningococcal serogroup B vaccination is now available and may be recommended by healthcare professionals for individuals age 16-23 years, with preferred age of 16-18 years.

The vaccine will not protect against other bacteria that cause meningitis.
 
Adverse Effects & Contraindications
Minor effects include localized redness in the injection site for 1-2 days, headache, fatigue, fever, and chills. You should not get the vaccine if you are pregnant, have a fever, or are allergic to either latex or Thimerosal, a preservative used in the vaccine. If you are receiving immunosuppressive therapy, you will not receive the full benefit of the vaccine.
Please be aware: As with all vaccinations there is a chance of allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock which may lead to death.
 
Cost
Meningitis (Quadrivalent) $120 
Meningitis B                         $140
Students may charge this fee to their account, use their declining balance, pay by Mastercard or Visa, or pay cash.