Recognizing Meningitis Symptoms

By  | 

Officials at both Baylor and Prairie View A&M Universities are working to contain the spread of bacterial meningitis. A Baylor freshman struck by the illness is now in intensive care and a pair of Prairie View students are also receiving treatment.

Meanwhile, both campuses are spreading the message that this is a infection not to be taken lightly. Jeffrey Cirillo is an associate professor of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis at Texas A&M Health Science Center.

He said the effects of meningitis can be severe.

"[It can cause] swelling around the brain and in the brain stem leading to [a] shut down, potentially [of] neurological capabilities," Cirillo said.

There are two forms of the illness, viral and bacteria with the latter being the most common. He said the particular cases of meningitis on both colleges are the bacterial forms.

College campuses often provide a prime breeding ground for the illness because of students' transient nature and the small spaces they often share. Cirillo also said military living spaces can present breeding conditions for infections to spread.

"Students or military personnel go back home and come back to that communal environment, Cirillo said, and where people are together in close settings they will expose each other to different strands."

But despite the contagious nature of meningitis, cases of it are rare. Often the symptoms of meningitis are similiar to the flu, but they are more severe.

It is when inflammation of the brain and brain stem begins to occur that the illness becomes more recognizable.

"Delirium, [a] loss of cognitive capabilities, people are confused, [and] they want to sleep all the time,' Cirillo said. "They really are not aware of the surroundings."

Another symptom that is associated with meningitis Cirillo said, is that infected persons have severe pain in the head and neck region. Stiffness in the neck is the most common complaint and the individual is unable to touch their chest with their chin.

He said the chin to chest flexibility check is a primary test that physicians use to help determine the presence of a meningitis infection.

Texas A&M officials said there are no current cases of meningitis at the university, but if that changes, the entire campus population would be notified immediately.

And Cirillo stressed that the moment neurological symptoms are discovered, the infected individual should find their way to the emergency room as soon as possible.