Recently, Newsweek reported on a case of bacterial meningitis at Penn State University. A single unidentified student’s diagnosis was confirmed on Monday, September 24th. The student was sent to Mount Nittany Medical Center for recovery.
Students close to the patient have been notified and given proper antibiotics, and the rest of the school’s administration and local health authorities are working to prevent any further outbreaks.
According to Newsweek, bacterial meningitis is a very dangerous illness that can result in serious brain injury or even death. The condition causes swelling in the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, fever, and a stiff neck.
Though most patients recover, in some extreme cases, patients who contract meningococcal meningitis die within hours.
In recent years, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis have been reported annually in the U.S, and the disease kills about 500 people each year.
Though bacterial meningitis is well known and dangerous, there are other forms of the illness. Viral meningitis is often mild and recovers on its own. Viral meningitis can sometimes stem from HIV and Herpes viruses.
Outbreaks of fungal meningitis are most rare. In 2012, an outbreak of the sickness was traced to a pharmacy in the Northeast, and it killed 48 people. Though not contagious from person to person, the fungal presentation is similar to bacterial meningitis.
Newsweek did not report where the investigators believe the Penn State student contracted meningitis. However, college freshman are most vulnerable to contracting the sickness, with risk factors up to seven times higher than the rest of the population.
In the past several years, colleges all over the country have reported deaths caused by bacterial meningitis, Newsweek reports. In 2013, a Kalamazoo College student died from the infection shortly after calling her family about a headache. In 2014, a student at Philadelphia’s Drexel University and one at San Diego State University also passed away.
College students, and the population and general, can take several steps to help protect themselves and others from a meningitis outbreak. Everyday Health recommends several steps, including:
- Adopting good hand washing habits
- Getting proper vaccinations
- Keeping a healthy diet to boost immunity
- Getting prompt treatment for other illnesses to keep bacteria from spreading to the brain
- Not sharing food and drink with others
Though entirely stopping the spread of meningitis is impossible, good prevention practices can help reduce the number of meningitis cases each year.