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Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord that can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections.

Bacterial Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis Symptoms

Bacterial meningitis is rare but very serious. It can occur sporadically through the year. A common form is meningococcal meningitis, which requires early diagnosis and treatment, or it can be life-threatening.

Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the population carry the meningococcal bacteria in their nose and throat. It can remain there for days or months without causing any symptoms. When outbreaks occur, as many as 95 percent of the population may carry the bacteria, but fewer than 1 percent actually get sick. Symptoms include:

  • Minor cold symptoms that last a few days then become more serious
  • Fever greater than 101 degrees
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Mental changes
  • Neck and back stiffness
  • Rashes
Bacterial Meningitis Prevention

Bacterial meningitis is transmitted through the direct exchange or respiratory and throat secretions–through coughing, kissing, or sharing unwashed eating utensils.

All college students should get a meningitis vaccination, especially if you live in a residence hall or greek house. (Indiana University does not require the vaccination, but we strongly recommend it.) If you haven't gotten the vaccination yet, visit the the IU Health Center Immunization Clinic. The cost of vaccination ranges from $75 to $125 and is subject to change.

You can also protect yourself by keeping your immune system strong.

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat a balanced diet–our nutrition counselors can help you with meal planning
  • Stay physically active
  • Avoid stress
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash hands frequently
Bacterial Meningitis Treatment

If you have bacterial meningitis, you will need to be hospitalized and isolated to prevent further spread of the disease. You will be treated with antibiotics.

If you have been exposed to someone with bacterial meningitis within 7 days, you should protect yourself with a preventive course of antibiotics. Contact the IU Health Center Medical Clinic immediately.

Viral Meningitis
Viral Meningitis Symptoms

Viral meningitis usually occurs in late summer or early fall. Most cases are not serious, though occasionally more serious symptoms can develop. Look out for:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Chest pain
  • Rash
  • In serious cases, loss of consciousness or paralysis may occur
Viral Meningitis Prevention and Treatment

Most cases of viral meningitis resolve on their own quickly. Because it is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Fortunately, it is not contagious to others.