Outbreak of meningitis reminds students to stay healthy

A recent outbreak of fungal meningitis has taken the lives of 25 people around the country.  Although it has not affected Butler University students, the outbreak should remind students to stay healthy during the winter months.

Officials have shut down three pharmacies after discovering unsanitary conditions where steroids meant to be injected directly into patients’ spines were produced.

Though severe, this outbreak is not a concern for college students because fungal meningitis is not contagious.

“It’s a non-issue,” Maria Fletcher, physician for Student Health Services, said. “Unless you have received a shot in the spine, there is a zero-percent chance of this outbreak affecting you.”

Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the meninges, which is the area where the brain connects to the spinal cord, said Amy Peak, associate professor of pharmacy practice.

Many different factors can cause this inflammation.

“The contaminated medicine is a very different way to get meningitis than something you would see on a college campus and is transmitted differently,” Peak said.

Five types of meningitis exist, according to the Center for Disease Control, and fungal meningitis is not a risk to students.

The type most often found on college campuses is bacterial meningitis. The infection spreads through contact with respiratory and throat secretions.

Butler requires its students to receive the vaccination for meningitis before living in a dormitory in order to reduce the issue on campus.

While the risk of contracting bacterial meningitis is lessened when a student receives a vaccine, no such vaccine exists for mononucleosis, or mono.

Commonly called “the kissing disease,” mono can spread in a variety of ways.

“Students need to be careful,” Fletcher said. “They can get it through contact, hugging, kissing or just being in the cafeteria and sharing cups.”

Student Health Services has treated about 10 cases of mono so far this year, Fletcher said. She considers this a normal number for the year, but students should take care of themselves.

Viral infections are the cause of the most common diseases on college campuses. Upper respiratory infections, influenza, mono and meningitis are all direct results of viruses. The stomach flu and pink eye are also virus-based diseases, according to ecampustours.com.

For students striving to maintain their grades and overall involvement, staying healthy is important.

“I encourage my residents to go to the HRC to see Health Services, work out, drink lots of fluid and supplement up with vitamin C,” resident assistant Joey Hebert said.

Peak said students need to realize that everyday surfaces are dirty.

“Door handles and keyboards can get really dirty,” Peak said. “If you’re sick and doing things at your own computer, wipe it off. Take a few minutes to really wipe off your cell phone because you have germs on your hands, and you bring your phone up to your face.”

Through the recent fungal meningitis outbreak is not an issue on campus, students should continue to be as healthy as possible to protect themselves and those around them from contracting contagious diseases.

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