Up to 19 University of Maryland, College Park students have come down with confirmed or suspected cases of viral meningitis in a little more than a week, according to a Washington Post report Tuesday.

Maryland map/National Atlas of the United States
Maryland map/National Atlas of the United States

The University is working in collaboration with the Prince George’s County Health Department and the State Health Department in tracking cases.

Maryland Health Center director, David McBride, MD wrote in a letter to the College Park campus community, “The word “meningitis” often strikes fear, however I hope the following information will help alleviate some of that anxiety. We have already initiated vigilant procedures to address and contain the virus, and have reached out to populations who are most at risk, including those living with and in very close contact with those who have the infection.

“We have discovered that the cases have now gone beyond the initially affected cluster of persons, so we are sharing this information more broadly with the campus community to ensure that we all take the necessary protective measures to keep the virus contained.

“It is vital to note that the current infection we are dealing with is viral, not bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is not as dangerous as the bacterial form. In addition, the standard meningitis vaccine, though essential, does not protect against this current infection. The currently available meningitis vaccine protects against certain bacterial forms of the infection.”

The debilitating, but rarely fatal viral meningitis(a.k.a., aseptic meningitis) is a very common type of meningitis affecting newborns, children and adults alike.

The symptoms of viral meningitis typically last a week or so; however, in some patients they can last for months. Symptoms include headache, fever, irritability, stiff neck, nausea and a sensitivity to light.

The Meningitis Foundation of America says viral meningitis is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (kissing, coughing, sneezing, and sharing a cup, utensil, lip gloss, or cigarette). Viral meningitis is also found in one’s stool, which is how infants and neonates who aren’t toilet trained and adults changing diapers develop it.

There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis at this time. Treating the symptoms of viral meningitis include getting plenty of rest, relaxation, fluids, and medicine to relieve a fever or headache.

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