Two cases of bacterial meningitis have been confirmed in Buena Vista County. That’s the Storm Lake area and both patients are students at Buena Vista University.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nicole Peckumn says the symptoms of meningitis are a sudden high fever, headache, vomiting and a very stiff neck. Some patients also get a rash that looks like small, red pimples. “Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the blood and the thin lining that covers our brain and spinal cords,” she says.

You get meningitis by coming into contact with the saliva of someone who is infected. “You cannot catch meningitis by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been,” Peckumn says. “You really can only get meningitis by coming into contact with mucus or droplets — which is the saliva — of a person that’s been infected…by kissing, sharing eating utensils, drinks or cigarettes, lipstick, chapstick.”

In addition to avoiding contact with saliva, Peckumn says the best defense against meningitis is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Public health authorities are asking all Buena Vista University students to get a shot of the meningitis vaccine. “That can help reduce any potential for anyone else getting sick,” she says.

There will be a vaccination clinic today (Wednesday) at 1:30 in the BVU student center on campus.