Health News & Tips: Meningitis

Claremont, Calif. (December 17, 2013) —To date, there have been no reported cases of meningitis at The Claremont Colleges. The Claremont Colleges Student Health Services (SHS) and college administrators have been closely monitoring the situation and following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3-7 days after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache and
  • Stiff neck.

Often other symptoms may develop, including:

  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia) and
  • Altered mental status (confusion).

Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very severe (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should seek care at SHS or visit a doctor as soon as possible.

If you feel like you may be getting the flu or may have meningitis, do not attend class, even if you have a final. Contact SHS immediately at (909) 621-8222 or, if it is after hours, contact Campus Safety at 909-607-2000, and you will be connected to the medical provider on call or an On-Call Dean. If you have questions about academic accommodations, contact the Dean of Students Office.

If you are an employee and believe you might have meningitis or the flu, do not come to work. Call your supervisor and then contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics, though it is important that treatment be started as soon as possible. Appropriate antibiotic treatment of the most common types of bacterial meningitis can reduce the risk of serious complications from meningitis to below 15%, although the risk remains higher among young infants and the elderly.

The most effective way to prevent meningitis is to get the meningococcal vaccine, which is available at Student Health Services. The vaccine protects against the four most common strains of the bacteria, but does not protect against all types. It does not, for example, protect against the strain at Princeton.

Other ways to decrease risk include: maintaining healthy habits such as not smoking and avoiding cigarette smoke, getting plenty of rest, not coming into close contact with people who are sick, increasing hygienic practices, and not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, smoking materials and other items. This is especially important for young infants, the elderly or for those with a weakened immune system, since they are at increased risk for severe disease.

Please contact Student Health Services at (909) 621-8222 for any questions or concerns, or contact your healthcare provider when school is not in session. For more information, please check the Student Health Services website.

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*Information compiled in collaboration with Pomona College

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