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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?

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?

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?

What else should I know about the vaccination?

How can I find more information?

More information is also available on these websites: