College life and shots: Get your prevention on

Staying healthy in college.

College is in part transitioning into adulthood, discoveringDoctor holding clipboard who you are and acknowledging the importance of healthy choices. Although endurance seems high among college students, there are contagious infections that can quickly spread, meningitis being one of them. Those with chronic conditions and impaired immunities can be at a higher risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) college students, especially those who live in dormitories are at a slightly increased risk for meningococcal disease compared with other persons of the same age. Common bacteria or viruses that can cause meningitis can spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing eating utensils, a toothbrush or cigarette. You're also at increased risk if you live or work with someone who has the disease.

The CDC recommends that college students add the meningococcal vaccine to their list of vaccination cocktails. Complete cocktails (vaccination schedules) are the most effective way to protect against certain types of bacterial meningitis. There are vaccines for three types of bacteria that can cause meningitis:

  • Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal) – Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcal. It can be transmitted from close contact (living in close quarters, kissing).
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).
  • Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib).

Michigan State University Extension says that five types of meningitis include:

Bacterial – The germs that cause bacterial meningitis can be contagious. Infectious diseases tend to spread more quickly where larger groups of people gather together. Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. It is important that treatment be started as soon as possible.

Viral – Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment. There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Antibiotics do not help viral infections so they are not useful in the treatment of viral meningitis.

Parasitic –Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is a very rare form of parasitic meningitis that causes a fatal brain infection. The parasite enters the body through the nose and is caused by the microscopic ameba (a single-celled living organism) Naegleria fowleri. PAM cannot be spread from one person to another.

Fungal – Fungal meningitis is rare and usually the result of the spreading of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord. Although anyone can get fungal meningitis, people with weak immune systems, like those with AIDS or cancer, are at higher risk.

Noninfectious – Non-infectious meningitis can be caused by cancers, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), certain drugs, head injury and brain surgery.

Preventatives include maintaining healthy habits, like not smoking, avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick. Practice good hand-washing and avoid sharing eating utensils, lipsticks or toothbrushes.

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