Microsoft word - meningitis fact sheet.doc
MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS FACT SHEET
WHAT IS MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS?
Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection of
the bloodstream or meninges (a thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord). It is a relatively rare
disease and usually occurs as a single isolated event. Clusters of cases or outbreaks are rare in the
HOW IS THE GERM MENINGOCOCCUS SPREAD?
Meningococcal disease is transmitted through the
air via droplets of respiratory secretions and direct contact with an infected person. Direct contact, for
these purposes, is defined as oral contact with shared items such as cigarettes or drinking glasses or
through intimate contact such as kissing. Although anyone can come in contact with the bacteria that
causes meningococcal disease, data also indicates certain social behaviors, such as exposure to passive
and active smoking, bar patronage, and excessive alcohol consumption, may put students at increased
risk for the disease. Patients with respiratory infections, compromised immunity, those in close contact to
a known case, and travelers to endemic areas of the world are also at increased risk.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The early symptoms usually associated with meningococcal disease
include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy, and may resemble the
flu. Because the disease progresses rapidly, often in as little as 12 hours, students are urged to seek
medical care immediately if they experience two or more of these symptoms concurrently. The disease is
HOW SOON DO THE SYMPTOMS APPEAR?
The symptoms may appear two to 10 days after
exposure, but usually within five days.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE?
Antibiotics, such as penicillin G or
ceftriaxone, can be used to treat people with meningococcal disease.
SHOULD PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT WITH A DIAGNOSED CASE OF
MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS BE TREATED?
Only people who have been in close contact
(household members, intimate contacts, health care personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,
day care center playmates, etc.) need to be considered for preventive treatment. Such people are usually
advised to obtain a prescription for a special antibiotic (either rifampin, ciprofloxacin or ceftriaxone) from
their physician. Casual contact as might occur in a regular classroom, office or factory setting is not
usually significant enough to cause concern.
IS THERE A VACCINE TO PREVENT MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS?
Presently, there is a vaccine
that will protect against some of the strains of meningococcus. It is recommended in outbreak situations,
and for those traveling to areas of the world where high rates of the disease are known to occur. For
some college students, such as freshman living in dormitories, there is a modestly increased risk of
meningococcal disease; students and parents should be educated about meningococcal disease and the
availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS THE VACCINE?
The meningococcal vaccine has been shown to provide
protection against the most common strains of the disease, including serogroups A, C, Y and W-135. The
vaccine has shown to be 85 to 100 percent effective in serogroups A and C in older children and adults.
IS THE VACCINE SAFE? ARE THERE ADVERSE SIDE EFFECTS TO THE VACCINE?
The vaccine is
very safe and adverse reactions are mild and infrequent, consisting primarily of redness and pain at the
site of injection lasting up to two days.
WHAT IS THE DURATION OF PROTECTION?
The duration of the meningococcal vaccine’s efficacy is
approximately three to five years.
August 2003. Source: New York State Department of Health Website (Revised March 2003) and the American College Health Association Website
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