Understanding meningitis is the first step toward preventing it.
What Is Meningitis
Meningococcal meningitis, a form of meningococcal disease, is a serious bacterial infection. Unlike viral meningitis, it can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear.2-5
Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognize, especially in its early stages because meningitis symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses.2,6 But unlike more common illnesses, meningococcal disease can cause death or disability within just 1 day.2-5
Many of the people who survive meningococcal meningitis can be left with serious medical problems that may include amputation of limbs, fingers, or toes, severe scarring, brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, and psychological problems.4,6
Who’s at Risk for Meningitis
Even people who are usually healthy can get meningitis. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that the risk of getting meningitis increases in teens and young adults.1,7
How Meningococcal Disease Spreads
Common everyday activities can spread meningococcal disease. This includes kissing, sharing utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters such as a dormitory or summer camp, and smoking or being exposed to smoke.1,2,6 Activities that can make teens feel run down may also put them at greater risk for meningitis by weakening their immune system. These include staying out late and having irregular sleeping patterns.4,6,8
What To Do
You can’t watch your teen every minute of every day. But you can help protect your children from meningococcal disease (which includes meningitis) by getting them vaccinated. Simply talk to your child’s school nurse or other health-care provider about the importance of vaccination.
If you ever suspect that your child has meningitis, go to the emergency room right away, where he or she can be evaluated and receive prompt medical care.