Meningitis is a scary word, especially for college students away from home living in dorms or military personnel living in barracks with many other people.
When that one word is spoken, the first thing asked through text messages is how do u get meningitis? The next few questions asked are how do I know if I have it and how will I be treated for it? Yeah, it’s pretty scary when you are off on your own and you must depend on doctors and nurses for the first time without your parents to fend for you. It will be okay, just pay attention and you will be fine.
You should know that meningitis comes in three forms: bacterial, fungal and viral. Bacterial and viral are the forms that most often affect us.
Viral Meningitis is the air-borne form that is transported via respiratory secretions via coughing and sneezing.
Why are close groups so susceptible?
People in small spaces tend to share more than just the air they breathe. They also share living space, bathrooms and kitchen areas that are prone to locating the bacterial form of meningitis.
A classmate of fellow soldier or sailor can have the living bacteria in their sinuses and never become ill, but they may pass it on to others.
Although it’s may seem like it is too easy to contract meningitis, the good news is that it is treatable and even preventable. Childhood immunizations have helped prevent meningitis from developing into epidemic proportions.
When there is an outbreak, immunizations at the college dorms or military bases can help reduce the spread of the illness and even reduce of cases that are already present.
What does meningitis look like?
The incubation period for meningitis is pretty short with symptoms appearing within 3 to 7 days. Usually, the onset consists of a headache, fever and stiff or painful neck.
Later nausea and vomiting may happen. Patients may develop photophobia or sensitivity to light, and they may also experience confusion or altered mental state.
What will doctors do to figure it out?
If doctors suspect a person has meningitis they will collect blood and/ or spinal fluid to see if the bacteria is present.
If it is they will grow cultures to figure out which of the three forms is happening to the patient. If an epidemic is developing they will contact the Center for Disease Control as per medical protocol to try to stop the spread of meningitis as quickly as possible.
How will I be treated?
Treatments are actually pretty simple for such a scary illness. Viral Meningitis, especially in patients who are generally healthy, tends to work its way through the body and recover occurs on its own with maybe pain medications to help reduce symptoms.
Bacterial Meningitis is treated with antibiotics and close medical care to help keep the patient comfortable. The sooner the antibiotics are started the better. As a precaution the CDC protocol calls for those who are close to the patient to also receive antibiotics to prevent the spread of the illness.
Take heart, even though it appears to happen pretty easily, you have treatment protocols in place to help you and those around you. If you suspect you have meningitis seek medical care as soon right away to get your treatment start as soon as possible and inform friends, family, sexual partners or other close people so they can get treatment too.
The scariest part for the young person at college or in the military is really that they want their parents with them. Other than that, it will be find and it’s really not nearly as scary as it sounds.