Since January of this year, there has been an unusually large number of cases of meningitis in Tijuana, Mexico. Meningitis is a brain infection that can be caused by bacteria or viruses. The bacterial type of meningitis has become more frequent there and the bacteria are called “meningococcus.” Most cases have been in children and young adults. Meningitis can result in death, if not detected and treated early.
Here is what you can do to prevent meningitis and to detect it early:
a. Know the symptoms: Fever, intense headache, lethargy, stiff neck, and/or a pinpoint rash that does not blanch under pressure.
b. Contact your doctor when these symptoms are present.
c. Get the meningitis vaccine. The vaccine (known to doctors as MCV4) is recommended for all children between the ages of 11 and 18 years old. The first dose should be given at age 11 or 12. A booster dose can be given at age 18. The vaccine is recommended for some adults: Those who travel to areas where there is meningitis, military recruits, college-age students living in dormitories, and adults with certain health conditions.
d. Use good hygiene. Frequent hand washing is important. Bacteria can be spread through coughing and sneezing; when a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your own elbow/sleeve (NOT into your hand).
e. Saliva can spread the infection. Do not share food or beverages. Do not share water bottles, eating utensils, lipstick or lip balm. Adults must not share cigarettes or pipes.
f. Travelers. If you are traveling to Tijuana, be aware of the recent reports of meningitis.
Promptly seek care for suggestive symptoms.
For reliable information on meningitis, go to the following website: http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcall