Meningitis is diagnosed in less than 3,000 people in the U.S. each year. Most common in college students and children under age 1, the disease can lead to serious health complications like brain damage or hearing loss. This week, Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell tells us what meningitis is and how it can be prevented.
Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D. is president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and this is the President's Prescription:
College students and young children are most at risk for contracting Meningococcal disease, or meningitis, because infectious diseases tend to spread more quickly in community settings like residence halls and daycare centers.
Bacteria that cause meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, are spread through close contact including kissing and sharing personal items like cups or lip balm. In addition, a lack of sleep from studying or partying can run down a person's immune system, making them more susceptible to the disease.
Symptoms typically develop three to seven days after exposure and may include fever, vomiting, confusion, stiff neck, headache and nausea. If caught early, the disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
The best way to prevent meningitis is to practice healthy habits like avoiding cigarettes and getting plenty of sleep, staying away from people who are sick, and getting vaccinated. The vaccine prevents four of the 12 types of meningococcal bacteria, and takes effect two weeks after immunization.
For more information about the Texas vaccination requirements for children and incoming college freshmen, visit the Texas Department of State Health website at www.dshs.state.tx.us.
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