College Students: In the Age of COVID, Don’t Overlook Meningitis


According to a recent article from CoventryLive, the nonprofit Meningitis Now is warning students and those going back to work to not make assumptions when they become ill. Students will be returning to campus, where they will undoubtedly be put into large social settings. These settings aid in the spread of infectious diseases, including meningitis. If a student becomes ill after returning to campus, they may assume they have contracted COVID-19. This will therefore cause them to self-isolate. If their illness proves not to be COVID-19, but rather meningitis, the consequences could be severe.

Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling. However, injuries, cancer, certain drugs, and other types of infections also can cause meningitis. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis because the treatment differs depending on the cause. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Pale, blotchy skin
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Rash

Consequences of an Assumption
The leader of the Meningitis Now’s awareness campaign, Nick Gilbert, has experienced firsthand the dangers of making an assumption. In 2018, Gilbert was not feeling well, but he decided he just needed some rest and continued through his week. After only one day of feeling under the weather, he vomited and collapsed in the busy streets of London. Bystanders assumed he was drunk at first glance, but Gilbert made it to the hospital where he was then diagnosed with meningitis. He says he has since made a full recovery.

“I dread to think how the outcome could have been different if I’d just gone home and shut myself away from everybody,” Gilbert said. “It’s vital that anybody who feels ill does not automatically assume it’s COVID-19. Learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicemia. Let someone know if you are feeling unwell. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, trust your instincts and get urgent medical advice.”

Spreading Awareness
Dr. Tom Nutt, chief executive at Meningitis Now, is warning young people to be aware of meningitis. According to research, a quarter of 15 to 24-year-olds carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia. While many young people are vaccinated against four strains of meningococcal meningitis, that still does not protect them from MenB, which causes bacterial meningitis. Before heading back to school or work, it’s advised that you confirm you are up to date on your vaccinations to protect yourself and others.

For more information about meningitis, visit

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