Friday, February 9, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 93



Staff Editorial


Tom Carpenter                      Ed De La Garza                       Crystal J. Doucette 
Romina Kim                           Jim Parsons


Know your diseases

Three thousand cases of meningococcal disease occur each year in the United States. Ten to 13 percent of those infected die despite early diagnosis and treatment. Ten percent of those who survive suffer debilitating effects of the disease. 

These numbers may appear substantial, but they're statistically irrelevant in a city the size of Houston, unless you're one of the statistically meaningless infected. 

Spinal meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Meningitis is an infection of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. The bacteria spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, bringing organisms into the air. Bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability and in some cases, death.

It's important to know the types of bacterial meningitis because antibodies can prevent the spread of the disease in some cases.

Several antibiotics are effective against bacterial meningitis if the treatment is started early. However, antibiotics are not effective against all the strains of meningitis. 

Early diagnosis and treatment is necessary to find the proper antibiotic. 

Meningitis caused by haemophilus influenza Serotype B can be prevented with a vaccine, which is part of normal childhood immunizations. According to the Center for Disease Control, the vaccines against Hib are very safe and effective. 

A vaccine to prevent meningitis against s. pneumoniae can also prevent other forms of infection caused by s. pneumoniae. This vaccine is not effective for children under two years old but it is recommended for persons 65 and older.

UH students should be aware that the CDC identified college students living in dormitories as a group slightly higher at risk than the general public in a 1998 investigation.

High fever, headache and a stiff neck are common symptoms of meningitis in anyone over two.

Anyone suffering from these symptoms should see a physician promptly for a check-up.

Meningitis cases should be reported to state or local health departments to allow follow-ups and recognize outbreaks.

It's better to be safe than sorry when your health is concerned. A vaccination against meningitis could save your life.

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