Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that can cause severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord. This disease is very rare and is commonly mistaken for a cold or the flu. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial as early treatment increases chances of survival and decreases chances of permanent disabilities.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Purplish red rash mainly on arms and legs

It is unlikely that a person will experience all of these symptoms. If you have a fever and at least one other symptom, it is possible that you may have been infected with meningitis. Taking a sample of your spinal fluid is the only way to confirm that you have been infected with the meningitis bacteria.

Research has shown that college students, particularly freshman living on campus, have an increased risk of meningitis. The reasons for this increased risk include activities such as, living in a crowded dormitory, going out to bars, drinking alcohol, smoking, and/or being around someone who smokes. The infection is easily transmitted through the air, therefore direct contact with an infected person puts you at risk.

A vaccination for the most common forms of meningitis is now available. This vaccination has proven to help prevent outbreaks of meningitis and meningococcal disease. The vaccination is generally safe and well tolerated. More information on the vaccination can be obtained at Student Health Services.

Resource Links:

v Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. What is meningitis? (
v University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Meningococcal Disease. (
v New Mexico State University, Student Health Center. Meningitis on Campus. Know Your Risk and Learn About Vaccination. (

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