University of Pennsylvania Meningitis Case Count at Four
Last month we reported on two cases of bacterial meningococcal meningitis in University of Pennsylvania students. The count is now up to four as the latest student suspected of having meningitis at the university was listed in critical but stable condition.
Other students in close contact with infected students have been informed and are being treated as a preventive measure.
Bacterial meningitis is a potentially fatal infection of the fluid of a person's spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. It is often called spinal meningitis. Even when not fatal, bacterial meningitis may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or permanent learning disability.
Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis are the leading causes of bacterial meningitis currently. Before the 1990s, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis.
Symptoms include fever, severe headache, sensitivity to bright light, stiff neck, lethargy, a rash, and nausea and vomiting. Meningitis is contagious though not as contagious as the common cold or the flu. It is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (for example, coughing, kissing, sharing cups)
There are vaccines against the Hib, against some types of N. meningitidis and many types of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The vaccines against Hib are very safe and highly effective. Meningococcal vaccines cannot prevent all types of the disease, but they do protect many people who might become sick if they didn't get the vaccine.