Meningitis is preventable

There are simple ways to protect your children


April 24, 2018

World Meningitis Day is today, April 24, so this is a good opportunity to share some information to help protect our community from this potentially deadly disease that can be fatal within 24 hours. The good news is that there are safe and effective vaccines that protect against the most common causes of bacterial and viral meningitis.

What is it?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis has various causes, from viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic, amebic to noninfectious. It affects more than 2.8 million people globally each year. Anyone of any age can be affected, but children and older people are at greatest risk. As with most infectious diseases, meningitis tends to spread where large groups of people gather together. You may have heard about outbreaks on college campuses in recent years. The Centers For Disease Control recommends meningococcal conjugate vaccines for first-year college students living in dorms.

How to prevent it

As referenced above, there are safe and effective vaccines that protect against the most common causes of bacterial meningitis. There isn’t one universal vaccine that protects against all strains so it’s crucial to ensure that you and your children stay up to date on all recommended vaccines. For instance, some types of viral meningitis can be prevented with the MMR vaccine.

Spotting symptoms

Unfortunately, not all forms of meningitis can be prevented by vaccine and it can progress extremely quickly. Therefore, it’s imperative to know the symptoms so that you can seek medical care for yourself or a loved one immediately. Some symptoms include: Fever, pale or blotchy skin, rapid breathing, convulsions, cold extremities, listlessness, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and sometimes rash or spots that don’t fade with pressure, and confusion. Babies may have a bulging of their fontanelle, or soft spot, neck retraction, high-pitched cry and discomfort with being held. Older children and adults may have a severe headache, bright light sensitivity, stiff neck and muscle or joint pain. Meningitis is treatable, but must be caught early.

To summarize, check with your primary care provider to ensure your family is current on all recommended vaccines and if you notice any symptoms of meningitis, seek medical attention immediately. For more information, go online to


Dr. Joe Nemes

Medical director at Sweet Medical Center


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