Cases of meningitis are rapidly growing among young adults, but these infections can be prevented.
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Kurt Rifleman, a U alumnus and family physician, works to teach young adults how to prevent the infection — with one step being vaccination. Rifleman promoted his ideas with an op-ed in The Deseret News and by sharing information on meetmenigitis.com.
Amanda Lopez, a freshman in secondary education, has had the vaccine but isn’t sure exactly what it is.
“I know absolutely nothing about meningitis,” she said.
Meningitis causes inflammation around the membrane that protects the brain. According to Rifleman’s article, the disease has killed 4,000 people within the past 10 years. Vaccination has helped to decrease that number, as well as new treatment options, but one in five affected patients could suffer from seizures, blindness, deafness and brain damage as a result.
Rifleman is concerned with meningitis infecting young people on college campuses. Meningitis spreads in tight, crowded spaces. It can also be spread through friends sharing food and through kissing. Meetmeningitis.com states that 24 percent of young adults are carriers. Some carriers will get sick with flu-like symptoms, and others will not but can still spread the virus. Because of the nature of the infection, someone who has been exposed can die within 24 hours.
The first prevention tip is to know the symptoms and consult a doctor straightaway if experiencing any. The symptoms include fever, headache and aching throughout the body. The second is to be aware and talk to parents and healthcare providers. This also includes protecting oneself by getting vaccinated, which Rifleman strongly advocates. He said it is required that children in Utah get the vaccination by the seventh grade and then it is recommended that they have a booster when they turn sixteen. These students can now, as of October, also receive the meningitis type B vaccine.
Olivera Masters, a freshman in anthropology, said it’s crucial for students to get vaccinated due to the nature of the infection.
“I know it comes fast and sudden and is susceptible for teenagers,” Masters said.