Meningitis: More than just a “dorm disease”
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Meningitis is a relatively uncommon but very serious illness that affects the membranes of the brain and spinal cord. While most people associate meningitis with college dorms, where the close-quarters living arrangements provide a perfect atmosphere for meningitis outbreaks, the truth is that meningitis affects people of every age group and geographic location. Two major outbreaks at college campuses in New Jersey and California in 2013 were caused by a strain of meningitis called serogroup B, which U.S.-approved vaccines did not protect against at the time.
Meningitis can be caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection, and symptoms can include muscle soreness, stiffness, fatigue, and fever. Although the disease is uncommon, it can be deadly, leading to death in 10-15% percent of confirmed cases. Even those who survive can suffer long term disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, or loss of kidney function. Prevention is especially critical for meningitis, because symptoms can often be confused for flu or respiratory infections, delaying proper diagnosis and treatment.
Although health officials advise routine vaccination against meningococcal disease at ages 11-12 with a booster at age 16, as of 2014 more than 20% of 13-17 year olds remained unprotected, and the unprotected rate was even higher for African American children. A study conducted in 2008 showed that nearly half of parents were unaware that meningitis was preventable. Every year hundreds of people contract meningitis, but the good news is that this number is at its lowest point in years, as increasing vaccination rates help to prevent major outbreaks of the most common strains of meningococcal disease.
Sterling Research will soon be conducting a Meningitis vaccine study. To see if you qualify, contact us at (513) 621-5112. You could be a medical hero and help create the next wave of life-saving vaccines!
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