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Meningitis: Striking Teens and Young Adults

February 13, 2023

COVID and opioids aside, a highly infectious disease continues to jeopardize the health of teens and young adults – meningitis.

Meningitis is a life-threatening inflammation of the protective layers of the brain and spinal cord, and can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi or parasite. Neisseria meningitidis is the most common form of the disease in youth ages 16-23 years old. This is especially prominent in college students, who have a greater risk of exposure due to their close living situation, lifestyle and activities.

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Quiet killer

Meningitis can camouflage itself as other sicknesses like the flu or COVID, but can be fatal in as little as 24-48 hours.

“Although some may have no symptoms, they can still pass Neisseria meningitidis to others who are close to them through sneezing, coughing, kissing or sharing drinks and other items that contain their saliva or respiratory droplets,” says Demetra Eleftheriou, MD, MPH, regional director of Hartford HealthCare CampusCare.

No warning

Often, meningitis strikes without warning. But just in case, Dr. Eleftheriou shares symptoms to be aware of:

  • High fever
  • Endless headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Seizure
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Drowsiness, confusion or difficulty concentrating

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Get vaccinated

The most effective way to protect yourself against meningitis is to make sure you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your primary care provider to make sure you are up to date with your vaccine series.

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