The danger is still there

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Last spring, an Aurelia High School student died as the result of meningitis. A month later, there were two cases of Washington High School students becoming sick with the disease.

A recent case of the disease by a student at Buena Vista University reminds us that caution still needs to be taken in order to avoid contacting or spreading the disease.

A health notice from BVU stated in part:

A student from the Storm Lake campus was hospitalized, Tuesday, Oct. 10 with bacterial meningitis. Members of our Student Health Services are working in collaboration with the Storm Lake Public Health Department to inform those individuals with whom the student may have come into contact. Bacterial meningitis is extremely contagious.

Meningitis is spread by contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person. It is most often spread between people with direct saliva contact by kissing, sharing cigarettes, lip balm, lip stick, sharing drinks or eating utensils and drug paraphernalia. Casual contact with someone with meningitis usually will not transmit the infectious agent.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is usually caused by bacteria or viruses. The type of meningitis we are seeing is Neisseria Meningitis.

The most frequently seen symptoms include the following: increased fever (usually over 103 degrees), aching joints, headache, nausea and vomiting, rash, stiff neck and increased fatigue. The symptoms may appear 2-10 days after infection, but usually within 3-4 days.

Prevention of the spread of meningitis is done by not sharing eating utensils, drinks or cigarettes with others as well as avoiding kissing. Anyone with cold or flu like symptoms should cover their mouth, and nose with Kleenex when sneezing or coughing. Frequent hand washing is always helpful in reducing the chances of diseases.

The BVU student infected has been administered antibiotic treatment and after a 24 hour period, is no longer contagious to others.

Kim Rupp, Cherokee County Health Nurse, noted that vaccinations are available, although there have been shortages. The vaccination is recommended for youth ages 11 through 18, and particularly recommended for college-bound students before the start of the freshman year.

Any further questions may be directed to the public health nurse office at 225-6718.