Lipscomb University Health Services wants to answer questions about meningitis and to encourage anyone who has not been vaccinated to get a meningococcal vaccine today. Meningitis is an infection of the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or by other illnesses. Diagnosing meningitis requires testing spinal fluid which can is done in an emergency department.

What’s the difference between bacterial and viral meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis is a very serious, though rare, illness that does have an increased incidence in those living in close quarters like dormitories. It can be fatal or cause permanent health consequences such as amputations, deafness, or brain damage. Bacterial meningitis starts quickly and progresses without prompt antibiotics. ALL COLLEGE FRESHMEN LIVING ON CAMPUS SHOULD GET THE MENINGOCOCCAL VACCINE to prevent bacterial meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a lot of information here: Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing). Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu. 

Viral meningitis is most commonly caused by Enteroviruses and appears most often during the summer and fall in temperate climates. Viral meningitis can affect babies, children, and adults. It is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis and normally clears up without specific treatment. The symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to those for bacterial meningitis. Because of this, it is important to see a healthcare provider right away if you think you might have meningitis.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Meningitis usually starts suddenly. Symptoms include:

·       bad headache

·       high fever 

·       stiff neck

·       nausea and vomiting

·       sensitivity to light

·       confusion or altered mental status

·       possible skin rash

These symptoms need prompt medical attention. If you have these symptoms, go to the nearest emergency department (Vanderbilt or St. Thomas are closest to campus). 

PREVENTION IS KEY! Make sure you have had the meningococcal vaccine!! If you were younger than 16 when you got the vaccine, you need a booster shot to make sure you have protection. Check your shot record today. The vaccine is 85-100% at preventing bacterial meningitis! Other key points are making sure you do not drink or eat after others and doing things to keep your immune system strong like avoiding smoking and getting adequate sleep.

The Health Center carries the meningococcal vaccine if you need it for $120. We accept cash, check, or can bill your student account; we do not bill insurance but you can file a claim. You can also go to local clinics or the health department to receive the vaccine. Do your part to keep our campus healthy! Please come to the clinic during office hours or email us with any questions!