Important Meningitis Prevention Reminders

I got this advisory message from the University of Maryland, College Park’s health department. At least 19 students have been diagnosed  with this virus and have been hospitalized. Even though the advisory is mainly addressed to the students, it’s  important that residents take precautions as well.
I’m writing to let you know that we are continuing to see some level of meningitis activity in the University of Maryland community and to offer important guidance for protection from this infection. 
To date, there have been 31 confirmed or suspected cases of viral meningitis in UMD students amongst a student population of 37,000.  Approximately 19 of those students have been hospitalized for supportive treatment.  The virus causing the infection has been confirmed as a strain of enterovirus called ECHO virus, a common cause of viral meningitis outbreaks.  In otherwise healthy people, the course of the illness is generally uncomfortable and similar to the flu, and those affected typically have symptoms for 3-5 days.  Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for this infection.  We are not dealing with cases of bacterial meningitis, an important distinction as bacterial meningitis is much more dangerous.
To reiterate my previous messages, the virus is spread primarily in saliva, stool and secretions.  As such, the most important measures for preventing spread include:
  •         Wash your hands frequently, particularly after using the bathroom.
  •         Stay at home and rest if you are ill to avoid infecting others and avoid those who are sick.
  •         Clean high touch surfaces in your living space (keyboards, doorknobs).  This is currently being done in the residence halls, Ritchie Coliseum, and the Eppley Recreation Center on campus.  In addition, the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life has negotiated increased cleaning in many of the chapter houses.
  •         If you are recovering from the infection and you share a bathroom, be sure to clean the bathroom with commercial disinfectant or bleach.
  •         Avoid kissing and sharing glasses and utensils.  This is especially relevant over the upcoming football weekend.
  •         If you have an underlying medical condition that causes compromise of your immune system, special vigilance to these measures is important.
If you have symptoms consistent with viral meningitis, like fever, headache, light sensitivity and stiff neck, please visit the UHC or your doctor to be checked.  In many cases, the confirmatory test for meningitis, a spinal tap, will not be done, but a clinical diagnosis and supportive treatment can be administered.  The treatment includes plenty of fluids, rest and pain and fever reducers.
The health and safety of our community is my top priority, so I ask that you pay careful attention to these preventive measures until this outbreak has subsided.  Additional FAQs and tips can be found atwww.health.umd.edu/meningitis.  With everyone’s participation, we can limit the spread of this and other infections.
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