Though cases of it are rare, bacterial meningitis is a serious illness that can be life-threatening, and college students living in close quarters are among the population groups that are most at risk.
East Tennessee State University reminded students Thursday of the affliction after a student at Middle Tennessee State University died this week from a suspected case of the virus, which presents with flu-like symptoms and can rapidly progress to a dire health situation.
College students between the ages of 18-21 who are living in accommodations such as dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses have a higher risk factor for bacterial meningitis. Early diagnosis is essential because of the rapid onset of the disease which can be treated with antibiotics. It can also be contagious, and antibiotics may be recommended for people who have been in close contact with someone who is diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
Students should also be aware there is a vaccine which is readily available that offers excellent protection from bacterial meningitis. In accordance with Tennessee Board of Regents policy, ETSU does not require students to receive the vaccine, but the university highly recommends it. All students who enroll at ETSU must sign a waiver form acknowledging their awareness of the dangers of bacterial meningitis and that a vaccine is available.
Patti Vanhook is a professor and associate dean for the ETSU College of Nursing’s Office of Community Practice and Partnerships, which operates the Student/University Health Services Clinic that can facilitate vaccination for students who want it. Nurse practitioners at the clinic refer students to the Tennessee Health Department, located only a mile from campus on State of Franklin Road, or they can write prescriptions to be filled at local pharmacies where students can receive the vaccine. It costs approximately $100, Vanhook said.
Anyone who suspects bacterial meningitis should seek medical treatment immediately. The Student/University Health Services Clinic is located on the first floor of Roy S. Nicks Hall and is in sight of the D.P. Culp University Center. For after-hours care, visit an urgent care clinic or a hospital emergency department.
Symptoms can include: headache, fever, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confused thinking.
For more information on bacterial meningitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html.
Licensed nurse practitioners and registered nurses deliver health care to ETSU students, faculty and staff members at the Student/University Health Services clinic. For more information, call (423) 439-4225 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The clinic is on the Web at www.etsu.edu/nursing/shserv/.