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Meningitis scare subsides

Amanda Nieto
Associate News Editor

A fact of university life is exposure to diseases – including viral and bacterial meningitis, a serious illness that college age students may be particularly susceptible to.

Earlier this month an e-mail sent across campus brought this risk of the disease to the fore, when the community learned that a student here had viral meningitis.

This student was later medically cleared to return to classes.

“I’m glad the University let us know,” said Lisa Keyan, freshman movement and sports science major. “It helps us be more careful.”

Cynthia Denne, director of Student Health Services, said that the point of the e-mail was to keep the community aware and help prevent the disease from spreading.

Meningitis is an infection in the fluid of a person’s spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. The illness is generally caused by a viral or bacterial infection. The bacterial version is more severe.

In worst cases, bacterial meningitis can lead to hearing loss, brain damage, limb amputation and death.

Viral meningitis can be spread through direct or indirect contact with an infected person. Shaking hands, kissing, coughing or sneezing are just a few ways an infected person can spread the disease. However, if one is exposed to someone with the disease there is a moderate chance of them actually becoming infected.

Symptoms for viral meningitis resemble the flu such as a high fever, stiff neck, headache, vomiting, confusion and sleepiness. These symptoms may develop over several hours or may take up to one to two days to show.

The best way to stay meningitis-free is by practicing good hygiene.

Washing your hands and covering coughs and sneezes are some of the best ways to ensure good health.

Keyan said that not sharing food or beverages with others is also an important factor in remaining healthy and not spreading anything on to others.

Noelle Cozbar, freshman political science and speech communication major, said that lowering stress, getting enough sleep and eating right are other ways to having a healthy immune system.

It is always important to remember safe and healthy habits at all times.

Students living on campus have a higher risk for contracting the disease because of close quarters, Denne said.

However, many on-campus students have already been vaccinated by family doctors prior to beginning school.

The meningitis vaccine, Menactra, provides protection from the disease for up to 10 years.

However, like other vaccines there is no guarantee of complete immunity from the disease.

Denne said that the vaccine is available through the University, but it must be ordered in large quantities and is fairly expensive.

If students or faculty believe they have any meningitis symptoms, they are advised to seek immediate medical attention as it is best to catch the disease early on.

Students may contact the Student Health Center to receive a medical evaluation.

Amanda Nieto can be reached at

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