Meningococcal disease (meningitis) is not a common disease, but it is one that has been increasing in some areas and countries. In Oregon, a state university had six students develop the disease, which prompted the university to require most students to get the vaccine. A university in New England recently reported at least one student has bacterial meningitis.
While meningococcal disease tends to be more prevalent among teens, senior citizens are not completely immune. The disease can be passed from a teen to a grandparent living in the home. It’s spread through saliva, so sharing a soda or getting coughed or sneezed on are ways a senior citizen can contract the disease.
When seniors do contract meningococcal disease, a slower immune response can make it harder to fight. If there is an outbreak at your child’s school or in your community, make sure your parents are protected.
Symptoms of Meningococcal Disease
The meningococcal disease often mimics the flu at first. The patient has a fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Other symbols include nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion.
If meningitis enters the bloodstream and causes septicemia, fever and vomiting are still common. Chills, body and joint pain, and tiring easily are also common. If the disease is not treated, a dark rash may appear as it progresses.
To diagnose meningococcal disease, a spinal tap is necessary. Some of the spinal cord fluid is taken and examined to look for the bacterial infection. If it is present, doctors will work on finding out what serogroup (type) of meningitis is present. This helps doctors determine the best course of treatment.
Treatments for Meningococcal Disease
Antibiotics are one of the steps to breathing meningitis. If there are issues with breathing, supportive treatments will be given in a medical setting. Low blood pressure issues will also be treated with medications.
According to the CDC, about 10 percent of patients with the disease will not survive. The same approximate percentage go on to have long-term complications from the disease such as loss of some mobility, hearing loss, and problems with the nervous system’s function.
Tips for Preventing Meningococcal Disease
If your parent lives in your home and you have children, make sure everyone is vaccinated against meningitis. There are different strains of meningitis. The vaccination for serogroups A, C, W, and Y are available for anyone over the age of two months. For serogroup B, the vaccine is available for anyone over the age of 10. The serogroup B vaccine requires a series of shots for full protection.
If your parent is recovering from meningitis, supportive care is essential to the recovery. Make sure there’s a caregiver on hand to help with housework, meals, medication reminders, and transportation to appointments. Long-term elder care may be necessary if mobility is affected. Learn more about supportive services by calling an elder care professional.
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