Meningitis: Know the facts
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Students who have recently gained places at university are being encouraged to be aware of the dangers of meningitis. A 2010 study by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) found that of the 1060 students surveyed over 10% of students in the UK have not heard of the disease and do not know whether they have been vaccinated against it. MRF revealed that students ranked themselves as the second least at risk group – when in fact they are the second most at risk, after babies and young children. What is meningitis? It is an infection of the meninges (protective membranes) that surround the brain and spinal cord. The infection causes the meninges to become inflamed which in some cases can damage the nerves and brain. The two most common organisms are viruses and bacteria. Viral meningitis is usually a mild disease, but can make people very unwell. It is caused by viruses that are spread through coughing, sneezing and poor hygiene; it can often get mistaken for flu. Bacterial Meningitis can be life-threatening and needs urgent medical attention. Most people who suffer from bacterial meningitis recover, but many can be left with a variety of after-effects and one in 10 will die. Symptoms Both viral and bacterial Meningitis can cause various symptoms, they can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. You should seek medical help if you or anyone you know displays some of these common features:
- A high body temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4°F) or higher
- Pale blotchy skin and/or a rash that doesn’t go away when pressing a glass or other ‘see through’ material against it
- Feeling or being sick, and feeling generally unwell
- Severe headache
- A stiff neck
- Becoming sensitive to light
- Confusion, irritability and drowsiness
- Being difficult to wake
- Muscle and joint aches
- Rapid breathing
- Cold hands and feet
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