Doctors explain symptoms of meningitis

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- With the seasons changing, doctors are expecting to see more cases of meningitis come through their doors.

Right now we're around the typical number of cases, but doctors want to get the word out now before that changes.

So far this year, Michigan has seen 70 cases of viral meningitis and 33 cases of bacterial. Doctors at 98point6 Emergicenter are hoping the warning will convince more people to get vaccinated.

"We like to identify it quickly, so it's nice for the public to have some knowledge as what to look for. It needs to be treated relatively quickly because it can be fatal if it's missed," Dr. Laurie Wallace said.

Dr. Laurie Wallace says people who are most likely to catch the illness live in close quarters, like college students or people who live in a nursing home. People who are most at-risk for complications are the elderly and babies. Doctors say the most important thing is prevention.

"Immunizations are important. There are immunizations that can prevent most of the most serious forms of meningitis, the bacterial forms, the ones that can be fatal," she said.

There are several types of meningitis, some more dangerous than others. The Ingham County Health Department says so far this year they have seen six cases, with one being bacterial, the more serious kind.

"Bacterial meningitis can be deadly for just about anybody, its a very serious illness and then viral meningitis tends to be mostly recoverable," Health Officer Linda Vail said.

Regardless of the numbers, doctors say in addition to getting vaccinated, wash your hands, and just be on the lookout before the illness gets worse.

"Sometimes before we make the diagnosis, if we have a high suspicion, we'll actually start antibiotics ahead of time before the diagnosis is made because time can be of the essence in making the diagnosis," Dr. Wallace said.

The three main symptoms of meningitis are a headache, fever and a stiff neck.

If you have already been vaccinated, there is a second immunization recommended before going to college.

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Infants are often inconsolable when they have meningitis and may cry more when being held.