Meningitis sounds like something we don't have to worry about anymore, however teenagers are at an increased risk and the threat is quite real. This disease escalates rapidly and can be deadly. One in ten young adults who contract the disease die from it. Three out of five survivors of the disease will have long lasting physical and mental disabilities. Adults need to be aware of how we can educate ourselves on the symptoms, be aware of how it spreads, and know how we can keep our kids from getting sick.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord and can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and even death.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms are similar to the flu and can include: fever, vomiting, stiff neck, drowsiness, muscle aches, and sensitivity to light. You might feel all or none of these symptoms. The disease intensifies quickly and if you have any of these symptoms you need to contact your health provider immediately. This disease can turn deadly in 24 hours or have lasting effects physically and/or mentally in some cases.
How does it spreads? The bacteria that cause this infection can spread when people have close or lengthy contact with someone's saliva. It can spread through close quarter contact, group hangouts, sharing drinks, food, utensils, kissing, etc. College dorms are especially vulnerable because of the close quarter living. Preteens, teens and young adults are at an increased risk of contracting and carrying the disease. This age group tends to live with multiple family members and congregate in groups more than any other age group--making them more susceptible. Meningitis can spread quickly and the illness hits hard. Talk to your kids about avoiding sharing food utensils, food and drinks to help avoid the disease spreading.
How can you avoid getting sick? There was a vaccine developed in 2014 against 4 strains of the disease. As with any vaccine it is important to discuss the benefits and potential side effects with your Physician. There are still some practical things you can do to avoid getting sick: do not share food or drinks, kiss a lot of different people, keep your living quarters clean, wash your hands often, do not share eating utensils, and go to your health provider as soon as your symptoms become noticeable.
For more information about the Meningococcal Vaccine for Preteens and Teens click here.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.