Lafayette

Mar 3, 2014 10:54 AM by AP

Health officials raise red flag against meningitis

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Health officials are urging people to take precautions against meningitis.

The state Department of Health and Hospitals says an East Baton Rouge high school student died earlier this month from a strain of meningitis.

State Epidemiologist Raul Ratard says the type of virus found in the girl was not contagious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two colleges, Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, are experiencing unrelated outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease.

In Acadiana, Michael Odinet, emergency medicine physician, at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, tells The Advertiser hospitals and other health care facilities commonly see viral, or "aseptic," cases of meningitis.

Odinet says viral meningitis is less dangerous that bacterial meningitis, but both can be lethal if not detected in time.

"Meningitis left untreated is terminal in anyone," Odinet said. "We are trying to educate people, but along with the education comes come alarm from the general public. That is warranted at some level."

Meningitis is difficult to detect because many of its symptoms are similar to the flu, Odinet said.

"High fever and chills, body aches, headaches. Sometimes even with viral meningitis you can get stiff neck, but not always. They are all consistent with the flu."

Students attending the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are required to get vaccinated for the meningitis, Charlie Bier, the college's media relations specialist, said. The office of student health services, however, does not offer the immunization at this time.

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