Meningitis is an infectious disease of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, which are called the meninges.
The sickness is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. In rare cases, a fungus, parasite or amoeba may also bring about meningitis. There are causes of meningitis that are non-infectious, such as some cancers, lupus, head injuries or brain surgery.
People of any age bracket can get meningitis, and those generally affected tend to develop fever and a bad headache. The symptoms of meningitis can vary widely in their severity. Almost everyone say they are tired, don't feel right and can't think straight, and some types of meningitis may cause a red rash on the body. Around 10% to 15% of those who contract bacterial meningitis die from the infection.
Bacterial meningitis can be contracted by coming into contact with an infected person's respiratory or throat secretions through coughing, sneezing, kissing or sharing food, drinks and eating utensils.
Teenagers and young adults, such as students in college dorms or military barracks, may be at greater risk for bacterial meningitis due to their social interactions and from living in close contact with each other.
Four of the main bacteria species that cause meningitis include:
• Neisseria Meningitidis, which is a special type of bacteria commonly found in people's noses and throats. In rare cases, this bacteria can penetrate into the bloodstream and travel to the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing an illness known as meningococcal disease. This type is very contagious and can outspread very fast in large group settings, such as college campuses.
• Streptococcus Pneumoniae bacteria can lead to pneumococcal meningitis, which is the most serious form of bacterial meningitis.
• Hemophilus Influenzae type b bacteria (Hib) specifically affects children under age 5. It was once the leading cause of meningitis in young children in the U.S., but has nearly been eliminated since infant vaccination against Hib was recommended in 1989.
• Listeria Monocytogenes is another kind of bacteria that has become a more frequent cause of meningitis in newborns, pregnant women, adults over age 60 and people with weak immune systems in the last few decades, according to Massachusetts General Hospital.
A more common cause of viral meningitis in Nigeria is Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Cand A, according to the CDC. Other viruses, such as the ones that cause mumps, herpes and chickenpox, measles, flu and mosquito-transmitted arboviruses (like West Nile virus), may also cause the infection.
These viruses are often noticed in the throat and feces of infected people. Individuals can spread viral meningitis to other people by coughing or sneezing, or by coming into contact with feces, such as when a person is changing a diaper or a soiled sheet.
People can get fungal meningitis when they breathe in fungal spores that live in soil or on decaying wood, or spores found in bird or bat droppings. The sickness is almost always seen in those with weakened immune systems due to HIV or organ transplant, for example.
Some of the immediate signs of meningitis may come suddenly and looks like the flu. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis normally show up three to seven days after a person is exposed to the infection, according to the CDC.
Bacterial meningitis symptoms may include:
• Sudden High Fever
• Severe Headache
• Stiff Neck
• Eyes are more Sensitive to Light
• Lack of Appetite
• Lack of Energy
A red or purple skin rash might appear with meningococcal meningitis as the disease endures.
Common Signs of bacterial meningitis in babies may include:
• Constant Crying
• Excessive Sleepiness or Irritability
• Poor Feeding
• Inactivity or Sluggishness
• A Bulge in The Soft Spot on A Baby's Head (Fontanelle)
• Stiffness in A Baby's Body or Neck
Other forms of meningitis have comparable symptoms to those listed above.
The major diagnostic test for evaluating meningitis is a spinal tap (lumbar puncture. This test draws out a sample of fluid surrounding the spinal cord to analyze if the cause of meningitis is bacterial, viral or fungal. Diagnostic tests have significantly improved over the years — they are great at identifying the cause of meningitis and can provide results in just a few hours.
Brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI, can also assist doctors detect whether there is brain inflammation.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious sickness that needs hospitalization, and its symptoms can easily become life-threatening without immediate antibiotic treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fortunately, there are antibiotics that are very active against bacterial meningitis. When an individual is suspected of having meningitis, the person is started on a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which may target many species of bacteria, and when the exact cause of the infection is known, treatment is changed to a narrower, more specific antibiotic.
Most people recover from bacterial meningitis, but some may develop permanent complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities and memory problems due to the infection, according to the CDC.
There is no specific medication for viral meningitis other than rest, fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers. Most individuals with the mild form of the viral infection recover within seven to 10 days.
Fungal meningitis is treated with high doses of antifungal medicines that are normally given intravenously.
There are really good vaccines that can prevent some of the most common causes of bacterial meningitis. One of the exciting advances in pediatric medicine has been the development of the H. influenzae type b vaccine (Hib), which has almost completely eliminated this form of bacterial meningitis in children.
These vaccines can help prevent bacterial meningitis:
• The H. influenzae type b vaccine (Hib), which is mostly given as a three- or four-part series of routine childhood vaccinations starting at 2 months of age.
• The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which is recommended for kids younger than age 2 and is given to infants as a four-part series of vaccinations.
• The meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which is typically given to children ages 11 to 12 to prevent meningococcal meningitis, a highly contagious type of this bacterial infection. A second dose is recommended when the child is 16.
• Two other vaccines, serogroup B meningococcal vaccine and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine 23-valent, may be recommended for kids or adults at high risk for getting meningitis.
Some viruses that lead to viral meningitis are not preventable by vaccine. Some great ways to prevent viral meningitis are keeping healthy and practicing good hygiene.
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