(WYTV) – As our students head off to college, they’re going to come in close contact with others and that could put them at risk for contagious illnesses, including bacterial meningitis.

How does it spread, how do you protect yourself?

Meningitis will inflame the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial form of meningitis is the most severe form: it may lead to seizures, vision loss or death if it’s not treated quickly.

“Meningitis often presents with symptoms such as fever, a stiff neck, headache, maybe even mental status changes, and sometimes even a very distinct rash on the skin,” said Dr. Tina Ardon, an M.D. in family medicine.

Bacterial meningitis, also known as meningitis B, can spread by sneezing or kissing, and sharing straws or drinks.

College students are a group at higher risk for contracting meningitis due to their living conditions, close quarters in a dorm or residence hall.

Preventing meningitis starts with two rounds of booster shots: one around 11 or 12 years old, and another at 16.

At college age, we have the opportunity to potentially boost the dose if it’s been some time and also offer another vaccine that protects against meningitis B.