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Meningitis Information

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What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.  It can lead to serious blood infections.  When the linings of the brain and spinal cord become inflamed, it is called meningitis. The disease strikes quickly and can have serious complications, including death. 
Who gets meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is more common in infants and children. For some adolescents, such as first-year college students living in dormitories, there is an increased risk of meningococcal disease. Every year in the United States approximately 2,500 people are infected and 300 die from the disease. Other persons at increased risk include household contacts of a person known to have had this disease, immunocompromised people, and people traveling to parts of the world where meningococcal meningitis is prevalent.
How is meningococcal disease spread?
It spreads from person to person by coughing or coming in close or lengthy contact with someone who is sick or who carries the bacteria. Contact includes kissing, sharing drinks, or living together. Up to one in ten people carry meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat without getting sick.
What are the symptoms?
High fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and a red -purple skin rash are symptoms of meningococcal disease. The symptoms may appear two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days.
What are the complications?
Ten to fifteen percent of those who get meningococcal disease die.  Of those who live, permanent brain damage, hearing loss, kidney failure, loss of arms or legs, or chronic nervous system problems can occur.
Is there treatment?
Early diagnosis of meningococcal disease is very important.  If it is caught early, meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics. But, sometimes the infection has caused too much damage for antibiotics to prevent death or serious long-term problems. Most people need to be cared for in a hospital due to serious, life-threatening infections.
Should people who have been in contact with a diagnosed case of meningococcal meningitis be treated?
If you are in close contact with a person with meningococcal disease, talk with your health care provider about the risk to you or your family. They can prescribe a antibiotic to prevent the disease. 
What is the best way to prevent meningococcal disease?

The single best way to prevent this disease is to be vaccinated.  Vaccines are available for people 6 weeks of age and older. Various vaccines offer protection against five major strains of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.:

* All teenagers should receive two doses of vaccine against strains  A,C,W, and Y. The first dose is given at age 11 to 12 years of age, and the second dose (booster) at age 16.

*It is very important that teens receive the booster dose at age 16 in order to protect them through the years when they are at greater risk of meningococcal disease. Talk to your healthcare provider today if your teen has not received two doses of vaccine against meningococcal strains A,C,W, and Y.

* Teens and young adults can also be vaccinated against the "B" strain. Talk to your health care provider about whether they recommend vaccine against the "B" strain.

Others that should receive the vaccine include:

* Infants, children and adults with certain medical conditions

* People exposed during an outbreak

* Travelers to the "meningitis belt" of sub-Saharan Africa

* Military recruits

To reduce your risk of illness, wash your hands often, maintain healthy habits such as getting plenty of rest and try not to come in contact with people who are sick.



Is there an increase risk for meningococcal disease if I travel?
Meningococcal disease and outbreaks occur in the United States and around the world. The disease is more common in the "meningitis belt" of sub-Saharan Africa. The risk is highest in people who visit these countries and who have prolonged contact with local populations during an epidemic. To reduce your risk of illness, wash your hands often, maintain healthy habits such as getting plenty of rest and try not to come in contact with people who are sick. 
How do I get more information about meningococcal disease and vaccination?
Contact your physician or your student health service. Additional information is also available on the Web sites of the New York State Department of Health,; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at and the American College Health Association,

Download our meningits form HERE (PDF file)

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