A student case of viral meningitis was confirmed by Sam Houston State University officials Oct. 23, after the potential carrier visited the Student Health Center the morning before.
Although much less severe than bacterial meningitis, an infection all students are required to receive vaccinations for prior to attending Texas universities, according to university spokesperson Julia May, it can become serious if left unattended.
“Viral meningitis is much more common, it is much less severe and it is not unusual for people to come down with it the way it is with bacterial meningitis,” May said. “Now left untreated, of course, you can develop complications from it, whereas bacterial meningitis you would know right away that it’s a bad situation. Bacterial meningitis is very serious, can be fatal, really, really makes a person sick—very, very ill. Viral meningitis is more common, not nearly as serious as bacterial meningitis.”
The student who first visited the Student Health Center on the morning of Oct. 22, was advised to seek medical attention elsewhere to ensure a proper diagnosis after staff suspected the viral meningitis case.
“In case the student needed to be admitted and of course, it was not confirmed from the health center, it was suspected,” May said. “So obviously at a hospital or a doctor’s office they are better prepared as far as diagnostic testing and things like that to check and get an accurate read on what’s actually wrong with a student when it’s that serious.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of Viral Meningitis include the sudden onset of fever, headache and a stiff neck often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and an altered mental status.
“[Viral Meningitis and Bacterial Meningitis] are totally separate and to my knowledge, there is not a vaccination for viral meningitis,” May said. “Obviously with bacterial type diseases there are antibiotics available for them. Viral meningitis, it’s my understanding that it’s treated just like any other virus as far as plenty of fluids, monitoring the fever, things like that and it just runs its course.”
Due to privacy laws, May was unable to disclose any personal information regarding the student with viral meningitis. However, she was able to confirm the student’s current state of health.
“All that I can tell you is what we are hearing which is that the student is doing well,” she said. “The student was released from the medical facility and is in good condition.”
May added that although she does not know when the student will be returning to classes, the student is healthy enough to resume everyday activities at the appropriate, doctor-mandated time.
Age and immune system-strength are both risk factors which can increase one’s susceptibility to contracting the virus. Transmission of the disease usually occurs thorough enteroviruses, the mumps, herpes, the measles and influenza. In addition, rodents and insects can also serve as carriers of the disease.
“It is [contagious] like any virus as far as the flu and things like that,” May said. “The best advice we give our students as with any contagious disease: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and cover your mouth.”
For more information about Viral Meningitis, go to http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/viral.html