A student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus has been confirmed to have meningococcal meningitis, according to the McKinley Health Center.

Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström
Meningitis symptoms/Public domain image/Mikael Häggström

The student is being treated at a local hospital.

University officials are contacting friends and roommates of the student to identify others at risk.

Meningitis means inflammation of a membranous covering of the brain and spinal cord.  It may have several causes.  The most serious is the bacterial form, Neisseria meningitidis, because it strikes swiftly and sometimes fatally.

About 10% of the population are carriers, which means that the bacteria lives in the back of the throat or respiratory tract.  It usually doesn’t bother the carrier.

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The bacteria are spread from person to person, through droplets of throat or respiratory tract secretions. Close contact is required:

  • kissing
  • crowded condition
  • frequently eating or sleeping in the same dwelling
  • sharing eating and drinking utensils

Vaccines are available that can help prevent meningococcal disease, which is any type of illness caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. There are two types of meningococcal vaccines available in the United States:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (Menactra® and Menveo®)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®)