Meningitis: Here’s Why College Kids are at Risk

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Meningitis in College Students: Why They're at Risk

It is undeniable that meningitis is a terrifying disease. Any illness that negatively impacts your brain and spinal cord is scary and potentially very dangerous. And while many of us falsely assume that meningitis is primarily a risk for young children and newborns, there is also a risk of meningitis in college students, and if you have any children in their late teens or early 20s, you need to know what to look for.

What is Meningitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meningitis is an illness caused by an extremely contagious bacteria called meningococcus. When the bacteria infects an individual, it causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord, and if left untreated, it can often result in death. This bacteria is “spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing).” So you can understand why this illness is spread so quickly, and is so terrifying in a college setting.

According to the National Meningitis Association, between 600 and 1,000 people contract meningococcal disease in the U.S. each year, and of those individuals 10-15 percent die from their illness. Those who do not die often experience permanent disabilities and damage as the result of the disease. And perhaps the most terrifying fact for any parents of a college-aged student or teen: 21 percent of all meningococcal disease cases occur in preteens, teens and young adults ages 11–24. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about when your baby goes off to college.

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