Avoiding meningitis in Utah

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    By Alexandra Sager

    With the deaths of two high school students in Ohio caused by meningitis, it leaves some people wondering what can be done in Utah to avoid a similar situation.

    Meningitis is a disease that affects the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, causing infection, said Gerrie Dowdle, communicable disease control program manager for the Utah Department of Health and Epidemiology.

    Cases of meningitis are often reported in Utah, she said.

    Meningitis can come in two forms, bacterial and viral, she said.

    “The main symptoms for both types of meningitis are high fever and stiff neck. The symptoms happen suddenly,” she said.

    Bacterial meningitis is more severe and is usually accompanied with an intense headache and terrible nausea and vomiting, she said.

    The spreading of bacterial meningitis is not like the common cold. It is spread through intimate contact, such as sharing utensils or kissing, said Ohio Health Department Director, Nick Baird, in a news conference.

    Those who live in densely populated areas, such as college dormitories, have a slightly higher risk of catching meningitis, relative to other persons their age, according to a press release given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Up to 10 percent of the population can carry the bacteria that causes meningitis without ever becoming ill and those people can infect others, said CDC spokesman, Thomas Skinner, in an interview with CNN.

    Katie Shephard from Hamilton, Ontario, said her daughter Kyley was six months old when she had meningitis.

    “I knew something was wrong because she came down with flu-like symptoms, I tried to take her to my doctor but he was too busy, so I had a doctor come in to my home,” she said.

    Some of Kyley”s specific symptoms included throwing up, being lethargic and sleeplessness, Shephard said.

    “The soft spot on her head was swollen, and when I bent her head down, it caused a lot of pain. Her stomach was also distended,” she said.

    Tests showed that the condition was actually a strain of meningitis, Shephard said.

    Always take precautions if there is any suspicion of meningitis, she said.

    Dowdle said vaccinations are available to help remove the risk of catching meningitis.

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