Meningitis FAQ

What is meningitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges.” An infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes this inflammation. There are several types of meningitis; the two most common types are viral and bacterial.

Signs and symptoms

The primary signs of meningitis include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, and a stiff, painful neck. Contact the Student Health Center (202-687-2200) during business hours or GERMS (202-687-4357) at any time if you experience the above-mentioned signs or any of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Altered mental status
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking
  • Loss of appetite

If in doubt, students should call Student Health Center or GERMS as soon as possible.

Resources

Students, faculty, or staff who experience symptoms (including sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck) should contact:

Student Health Center

Business hours:

Ground Floor, Darnall Hall
3800 Reservoir Rd., NW
Make an appointment: (202) 687-2200

Student Health Center is located next to the Epicurean and Wisconsin GUTS shuttle on the west side of Darnall Hall.

Emergencies/after hours:

Call (202) 444-7243
Ask for the clinician on-call for the Student Health Center.

GERMS

Call (202) 687-4357 (HELP)
Visit 206 Village C West

Prevention

Meningitis can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Bacterial and viral meningitis are both contagious and can be spread person-to-person through the sharing of throat or respiratory secretions (such as mucus or saliva).

To prevent transmission, students, faculty, and staff should:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Use alcohol-based hand-sanitizers regularly.
  • Do not share cups, utensils, toothbrushes, chapstick, cosmetics, smoking materials (such as cigarettes or hookah), or anything that comes in contact with the mouth.
  • Disinfect surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, computer screens, and cell phones.
  • Avoid kissing others who are sick.

Vaccination protects against most cases of bacterial meningitis. Students who have questions about vaccinations can visit or call the Student Health Center (202-687-2200). Faculty or staff should contact their primary care provider. This vaccine is sometimes covered by insurance, although coverage varies according to each specific plan. Meningitis vaccinations are now a requirement at Georgetown University for all entering students.  

More information about meningitis is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov/meningitis).