You may have heard about bacterial meningitis before, but may not be clear what it is or how it's spread.
"It can be very virulent and result in a situation where a person can be well one day and dead the next," said Dr. Lori MacDonald, Tennessee Department of Health.
According to the state health department, meningitis affects the brain and can be fatal.
The symptoms often resemble the flu with a headache, fever and a stiff neck.
It's spread by close contact, for example sharing a drink or being exposed to a sneeze.
The good news is it's preventable with a vaccine.
Those who had close contact with someone who is sick can be treated with an antibiotic.
"This is a rare infection, but can be serious," said Dr. Thomas Talbot from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "The vaccine can prevent some of these, so it's important to get vaccinated. It's recommended.
"If you have any symptoms of concern, particularly if you are exposed to an individual who may have this infection, go see your doctor sooner, rather than later, and get checked out. There's no need to panic, but get checked out."
The illness is most often seen in settings where a lot of people live in one small area. That's why you often hear about it affecting college students who live in dorms.
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