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Bacterial Meningitis Information

What is bacterial meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is a serious, potentially deadly disease that can progress extremely fast. It is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. A bacterium that causes meningitis can also infect the blood. This disease strikes about 3,000 Americans each year, including students on 100–125 college campuses, leading to 5–15 deaths among college students every year. Treatment for the disease is available, but those who survive may still develop severe health problems or disabilities.

What are the symptoms?

  • High fever
  • Rash or purple patches on skin
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Confusion and sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting

Those infected may develop anywhere on the body a rash of tiny, red-purple spots caused by bleeding under the skin. The more symptoms, the higher the risk, so when these symptoms appear, seek immediate medical attention.

How is bacterial meningitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made by a medical provider, and is usually based on a combination of clinical symptoms and laboratory results from spinal fluid and blood tests.

Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the likelihood of recovery.

How is the disease transmitted?

The disease is transmitted when people exchange saliva (by engaging in activities such as kissing or sharing drink containers, utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, etc.) or come into contact with respiratory or throat secretions.

How do you increase your risk of getting bacterial meningitis?

In addition to engaging in activities in which saliva is exchanged, another increased risk is living in close conditions, such as a shared room/suite in a residence hall or group home.

What are the possible consequences of the disease?

  • Death (In eight to 24 hours, those infected can go from perfectly well to dead.)
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Learning disabilities
  • Hearing loss, blindness
  • Limb damage (fingers, toes, arms, legs) that requires amputation
  • Gangrene
  • Coma
  • Convulsions

Can the disease be treated?

Antibiotic treatment, if received early, can save lives and increase chances of recovery. However, permanent disability or death can still occur.

Who is most in need of the vaccine?

  • Those living in close quarters
  • College students 30 years old or younger

What else should I know about the vaccination?

  • Vaccinations are effective against four of the five most common bacterial types that cause 70 percent of the disease in the U.S. (but do not protect against all types of meningitis).
  • Vaccinations take 7–10 days to become effective, with protection lasting three to five years.
  • The cost of vaccinations varies, so check with your health care provider.
  • The vaccination is very safe—the most common side effects are redness and minor pain at the injection site for up to two days.
  • The vaccination is available at the University Health Clinic for a fee.

How can I find more information?

  • Contact your own health care provider.
  • Contact the ASU Health Clinic at 325-942-2171.
  • Contact the Tom Green County Department of Health Office at 325-659-8830. The office is located at 1702 W. Avenue N.

More information is also available on these websites: