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Tips to prevent and recognize meningitis

Tips to prevent and recognize meningitis

Meningitis has been making headlines this week after the death of a Drexel University student and a diagnosis in a Montgomery County third grader.

Health officials believe the strain that caused the Drexel student's death may be the same one behind an outbreak at Princeton University months ago.

"I think all parents and students should be concerned about knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis," said Terry Burger, RN, Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

"A sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, but those symptoms can progress rather rapidly and move on to fatigue, vomiting and even develop a rash," she explained of meningitis symptoms.

She said there are things people can do to try to stay healthy.

"The way that meningitis is spread is through droplets, it is through saliva," said Burger.

Avoid sharing personal items like toothbrushes and drinking glasses in addition to getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids, she recommended.

"The most important thing is to get vaccinated and the vaccine that's approved, FDA approved in the U.S., is the one that's a requirement for most colleges," said Burger. "Unfortunately the outbreak that's taken place, Princeton, potentially Drexel and was in California, is a different serogroup that is not covered in the current U.S. vaccine.

There was a vaccine used at Princeton that is not yet approved for general use in the U.S., but the CDC and FDA approved it for use at Princeton.

Health officials suspect the same strain at Princeton may be to blame for the death this week of Drexel University sophomore Stephanie Ross, who died from bacterial meningitis.

Burger said, "We should use this as a good learning opportunity, a good lesson to say bad things can happen and what can I do to be as safe as I can?"

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