Today is World Meningitis Day, a day to think about the over one million people worldwide who will fall victim to acute bacterial meningitis during the year. One hundred seventy thousand of them will not survive, many in the developing world. Untreated meningitis is fatal in half of all cases.

Even survivors are not usually unscarred. Meningitis frequently has lasting effects that include hearing loss or deafness, brain damage, and learning difficulties. Septicemia is also common, wherein bacteria spread in the bloodstream.

Meningitis is highly contagious. When a Washington, DC, bus driver was diagnosed yesterday, officials suspended service on the whole route and disinfected the entire fleet. It can also be fast-moving, and is always treated as a medical emergency.

Meningitis often manifests with flu-like symptoms. Contact your doctor if you experience fever, vomiting, headache, confusion, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and drowsiness.

There is a vaccine for meningitis available, recommended for children and adolescents, incoming college dorm residents who haven’t been previously vaccinated, and people who may have been exposed or are likely to be, such as through travel.

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