Meningitis (page 2)
What Is Meningitis
Meningococcal meningitis, a form of meningococcal disease, is a serious bacterial infection. Unlike viral meningitis, it can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear.
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognize, especially in its early stages because meningitis symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses. But unlike more common illnesses, meningococcal disease can cause death or disability within just 1 day.
Many of the people who survive meningococcal meningitis can be left with serious medical problems that may include amputation of limbs, fingers, or toes, severe scarring, brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, and psychological problems.
Who’s at Risk for Meningitis
Even people who are usually healthy can get meningitis. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that the risk of getting meningitis increases in teens and young adults.
How Meningococcal Disease Spreads
Common everyday activities can spread meningococcal disease. This includes kissing, sharing utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters such as a dormitory or summer camp, and smoking or being exposed to smoke. Activities that can make teens feel run down may also put them at greater risk for meningitis by weakening their immune system. These include staying out late and having irregular sleeping patterns.
What To Do
You can’t watch your teen every minute of every day. But you can help protect your children from meningococcal disease (which includes meningitis) by getting them vaccinated. Simply talk to your child’s school nurse or other health-care provider about the importance of vaccination.
If you ever suspect that your child has meningitis, go to the emergency room right away, where he or she can be evaluated and receive prompt medical care.
Teens At Risk of Meningitis
Age Plays a Part
They may not know it, but teenagers and young adults are at greater risk for getting meningococcal disease (meningitis) and are more likely to die compared to younger age groups.
In fact, about 10% of the 1000 to 2600 Americans who get meningococcal meningitis each year will die. Death rates are up to 5 times higher among teenagers and young adults (15 through 24 years of age) compared to other age groups.
Lifestyle Is Key
Certain lifestyle factors are thought to put healthy preteens and teens at greater risk for meningitis infection, including:
- Sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, or water bottles
- Being in crowded situations for prolonged periods of time
- Not getting enough sleepSmoking (or being exposed to smoke)
- Living in close quarters (eg, dormitories, boarding schools, sleep away camps)
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to help protect them from meningococcal meningitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical groups recommend meningococcal vaccines for:
- Preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age
- College freshmen living in dormitories
- Children 2 through 10 years of age who are at increased risk or if elected by their health-care providers and parents
Meningitis vaccines are available for people who wish to reduce their risk for contracting the disease.
Create the Right Opportunity — Don’t Wait for It
Now that you know how dangerous meningococcal disease is, take action right away. Ask your child’s school nurse about meningitis prevention or call your health-care provider to schedule a vaccination appointment.
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