Precautions urged against meningitis

December 6, 2013 by Cedric Ricks

Recent outbreaks of meningitis at Princeton University and other college campuses across the nation have students on alert, but there are ways to lessen the threat, says Madhuri Sopirala, MD, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati and a UC Health physician.

"Meningococcal is spread through saliva usually, through sharing things such as glasses, cups, water, or eating from the same plate, sharing drinks or kissing," says Sopirala. "In addition to causing severe neurological problems, it can also cause blood stream infection, sepsis and organ damage."

Seven students and one student visitor at Princeton have been sickened with meningitis since March and other cases have been reported at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. and at the University of California at Santa Barbara and California State University at Long Beach.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by bacteria or viruses or physical injury, cancer or certain drugs, according to the CDC.

There are five types of meningitis, according to the CDC. At Princeton, there are confirmed cases of the due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup (type) B, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. No deaths on college campuses have been reported as a result of meningitis.

"It is a very serious infection of your central nervous system and it can cause plenty of damage," says Sopirala. "About 10 percent of patients can go on to develop serious symptoms. It can be fatal."

Symptoms include fever, stiffness of the neck, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and sensitivity to light, according to the CDC.

Sopirala says students at UC and other local colleges and universities can take precautions against the disease by simply practicing good hygiene.

Many tips are spelled out by the New Jersey Department of Health, which says students can do the following:

  • Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Clean your hands before eating, using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid sharing utensils, water bottles or other items contaminated by saliva or respiratory secretions.
  • Practice positive healthy habits such as avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use. Eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest.

The outbreak has not affected UC, but should be taken seriously, says Sopirala.

"None of the cases at Princeton University are directly linked to each other and have been occurring for several months," she says. "It indicates an outbreak that could likely go on."

Officials at Princeton University are recommending that students take a vaccine to prevent the disease. The vaccine has been given special approval for use at Princeton by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It has not been licensed for use in the U.S. otherwise, but is used in Europe and Australia, according to the Princeton University website.

Explore further: Princeton to offer meningitis B vaccine to 6,000

Related Stories

Princeton to offer meningitis B vaccine to 6,000

November 26, 2013
Princeton University says a meningitis vaccine not yet licensed for use in the U.S. will be made available on campus starting Dec. 9 to nearly 6,000 students.

Princeton U. to give students meningitis B vaccine (Update 2)

November 18, 2013
Princeton University officials decided Monday to make available a meningitis vaccine that hasn't been approved in the U.S. to stop the spread of the sometimes deadly disease on campus.

Princeton students safe to travel despite meningitis outbreak: CDC

November 26, 2013
(HealthDay)—Despite recent outbreaks of bacterial meningitis at Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S. heath officials said Monday that students are safe to travel home for the Thanksgiving ...

Fungal meningitis deaths rise to 24, CDC reports

October 25, 2012
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that a 24th person had died of fungal meningitis after receiving contaminated steroid injections. The latest victim had received an injection to treat ...

US meningitis cases climb to 205 as outbreak worsens

October 15, 2012
Fungal meningitis tied to a contaminated steroid has affected 205 people in a worsening outbreak of the infection that has killed 15 people in the United States, officials said Sunday.

Recommended for you

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.