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Meningitis in Adults (cont.)

How Is Meningitis Transmitted?

Bacterial and viral meningitis can be spread to others, however both viral and bacterial meningitis are not as contagious as colds or the flu.

  • Transmission of meningitis requires close contact with respiratory droplets or saliva such as through kissing, sneezing, or coughing.
    • Sharing drinks, utensils, or toothbrushes with an infected patient can also lead to transmission.
    • Sharing a cigarette theoretically may lead to transmission also.
  • Simply being in the same room with someone with meningitis is not enough to transmit the disease.

Is It Possible to Prevent Meningitis in Adults?

  • Antibiotics can be given to help prevent meningitis if a person has had the following:
    • Close contact with someone who has meningitis
    • Prolonged close contact (those who live, go to school, or are in jail with a person with meningitis)
    • Exposure to mouth, nose, or lung secretions (for example, kissing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, sharing drinks or utensils)
  • Even if antibiotics are given for prevention, anyone who has been exposed to someone with meningitis needs to seek medical attention if sore throat, fever, headache, rash, or neck stiffness develops.
  • Preventive antibiotics are not necessary for all cases of meningitis and are generally not necessary unless the doctor suspects or confirms that the meningitis is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.
    • Incoming college freshmen who live in close quarters, such as dormitories, may be given a vaccine to prevent this type of bacterial meningitis.
    • The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this group is at a small but somewhat increased risk for meningococcal meningitis.
    • Other college students may also elect to have the single-dose shot.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/18/2015
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