Several students in Wilson County have reportedly been diagnosed with possible viral meningitis, an illness which includes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and overall aches and tiredness.
However, according to the Wilson County Health Department, there have been only two confirmed cases of the illness brought to their attention over the past month.
Todd Durham, Wilson County Health Department Administrator, believes that many people are unaware that there are two varieties of meningitis; bacterial and viral. ‘When parents hear the word “meningitis”, they can panic-- but these two forms of meningitis are very different diseases” reassures Durham. Bacterial meningitis is often deadly, but the far more common viral meningitis is much less serious, and rarely causes death or lasting effects. Durham also says that catching viral meningitis is unlikely, since the illness is not considered to be highly contagious. Even If you have close contact with someone who has viral meningitis, it is unlikely that you will actually develop meningitis. Most infected people either have no symptoms, or develop nothing more bothersome than a cold or rash.
Viruses that cause meningitis, colds, or the flu are most often spread by touching something an infected person has handled, and then rubbing your own nose or mouth. Viruses can also be spread by sharing eating utensils or by changing the diapers of an infected child. Frequent hand washing is the best prevention for this type of infection. Also, try to avoid people who are sick, and stay home if you are sick.
Only a spinal tap can positively confirm viral meningitis, but this test is not routinely considered necessary since most patients recover completely within 7-10 days, with at-home bed rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medication to relieve fever and headache.
If you think you or your child may have the symptoms of viral meningitis, Durham advises that you should check with your doctor in order to rule out any other illnesses which may require different treatment.
For more information about meningitis and hand washing, contact the Wilson County Health Department at (620) 378-4455 or www.wlhealthkansas.org ; or visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov .