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Is meningitis contagious?

by Gabrielle Frank / / Source: TODAY

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Meningitis is a serious inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord, and in some cases, it can be deadly.

How do you get it? Meningitis is often in the news when outbreaks hit college students — that type of meningitis is contagious.

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Most of the time, the disease is caused by an infection with bacteria. Meningitis germs are typically spread through close intimate contact, like sharing food and drinks, which college kids do a lot. To prevent catching meningitis, get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all 11-12-year-old kids get the meningococcal vaccine, and then get a booster at age 16.

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Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, headache and a stiff neck. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light or confusion. These symptoms can appear quickly, or develop over a number of days. It's important to see a doctor and start treatment as soon as possible if you think you might have meningitis.

For more information, watch the Ask A Doctor video above.

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