Thursday, April 9, 2009

Staying Healthy When Meningitis Hits Campus

by Jake Young

Ohio University is dealing with a case of meningitis on campus for the second time in three months. Two students were infected with bacterial meningitis, and both were hospitalized in February. This time, viral meningitis is the culprit, and while the student, Krystine Garcia, remains in the hospital, students in her dorm, Bush Hall, and others across campus are wondering how they will avoid becoming the next victim.

The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis are the same (stiff neck, fever, headache, vomiting), but the outcomes are vastly different. Someone with viral meningitis will experience flu-like symptoms and usually have to let the illness run its course. A serious case can cause prolonged fever and seizure, and rarely, death.
Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, is much more serious. The patient could experience brain damage and death if not treated quickly. For that reason, anyone with those symptoms is encouraged to go to Hudson Health Clinic or O'Bleness Memorial Hospital to be evaluated.

Bush Hall resident Chris Caputo says she and her fellow residents were relieved to find out their friend had the less serious, viral strain of meningitis.

Information Comforts Student

For students not showing the symptoms of meningitis, the focus shifts to prevention of the illness. It is strongly suggested that young adults, particularly incoming college students, receive the meningococcal vaccine. Meningitis has flu-like symptoms that attack an already weakened immune system, so students may want to get updated on shots for measles, chickenpox and pneumococcal infection. Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi pinpoints simple keys to avoiding a meningitis infection.

Simple Tips for Prevention

Overall, good hygiene is the best key to any illness prevention. Staying clean by frequently washing hands and not touching door knobs and other public hot spots could prevent a meningococcal infection. For students, it is especially important to be wary of the classroom setting, particularly desks. Students are encouraged to carry antibacterial hand sanitizer as an added measure.

For those already facing a viral meningitis infection, there are antibiotics offered to prevent the condition from worsening. Students can receive the antibiotic from Hudson Health Clinic or O'Bleness Memorial Hospital.

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