After several meningitis related cases and four reported deaths in recent weeks, health officials are reminding patients vaccinations are the best way to prevent the illness.
“Immunizations are the best protector for various types of bacterial meningitis,” Dr. Eric Scott Palmers told Nashville's News 2.
Dr. Palmer is a pediatrician at TriStar Centennial Women's and Children's Hospital.
“This time of year it highlights the importance of proper immunizations for your children which can prevent both pneumococcal [meningitis] as well as many types of meningococcal meningitis,” said Dr. Palmer, adding “Those are fancy names for the bacteria that cause meningitis.”
According to officials, meningitis is an infection or inflammation of the lining of the brain and central nervous system. The illness can be treated successfully if it is caught early enough.
Dr. Palmer told Nashville's News 2 some of the early warning signs of meningitis include fever, severe headaches and severe nausea.
In older children, a stiff neck and changes in the way they are thinking are also worrisome signs which should be checked out immediately.
“Most people who are exposed to meningitis bacteria are not going to become sick. We have them in our bodies a lot,” Palmer explained.
While most children receive meningitis immunization shots at an early age, Dr. Sydney Hester at TriStar Centennial said it can be important to receive a booster shot.
“As people move from infancy to childhood, adolescence and then into adulthood there are certain vaccines that wane with time so it is import for those vaccines to get a booster or re-immunized.”
Dr. Hester and Palmer both stress the importance of working with a patient's individual health care provider to make sure you receive the best possible protection against meningitis.
“I have cared for college students with this disease and once you have seen it, you never want to see a preventable case if you can,” said Palmer.
Last month an elementary student and college student died of the illness.
Friday, nine-year-old Sam McLeod, a student at West Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, died from a non-contagious form of bacterial meningitis and on September 10, 18-year-old Jacob Nunley, a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, died from the illness.
On Monday, Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center voluntarily closed after a cluster of meningitis cases involving two deaths.