Last Updated on 3 months by Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
The swelling from meningitis typically triggers symptoms such as headache, fever and a stiff neck.
Most cases of meningitis in the U.S. are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections are other causes. Some cases of this disease improve without treatment in a few weeks. Others can be life-threatening and require emergent antibiotic treatment.
Seek immediate medical care if you suspect that someone has this disease. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications.
This is another one of the communicable diseases. It can be caused either by bacteria or by a virus. This infection afflicts the spinal cord and brain. The name derives from “meninges” or the soft tissues of the brain that get damaged by the disease.
Outbreaks of meningitis
It’s one of the sicknesses in Nigeria that has caused a recent minor outbreak, especially its Zamfara province. Almost 700 cases were diagnosed and 50 people died during this 2015 outbreak. Since the end of 80ss, there have been almost a million cases of this disease in Africa. The death rate is comparably small (just 1 percent). However, many survivors remain deaf, blind or demented for the rest of their lives.
Causes of meningitis
Viral infections are the most common cause of this disease, followed by bacterial infections and, rarely, fungal infections. Because bacterial infections can be life-threatening, identifying the cause is essential.
Bacteria that enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain and spinal cord cause acute bacterial meningitis. But it can also occur when bacteria directly invade the meninges. This may be caused by an ear or sinus infection, a skull fracture, or, rarely, after some surgeries.
Several strains of bacteria can cause acute bacterial meningitis, most commonly:
Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcus).
Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus).
This bacterium is another leading cause of bacterial meningitis. These bacteria commonly cause an upper respiratory infection but can cause meningococcal meningitis when they enter the bloodstream. This is a highly contagious infection that affects mainly teenagers and young adults. It may cause local epidemics in college dormitories, boarding schools, and military bases. A vaccine can help prevent infection.
Haemophilus influenzae (haemophilus).
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacterium was once the leading cause of the disease in children. But new Hib vaccines have greatly reduced the number of cases of this type of meningitis.
Listeria monocytogenes (listeria).
These bacteria can be found in unpasteurized cheeses, hot dogs and luncheon meats. Pregnant women, newborns, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Listeria can cross the placental barrier, and infections in late pregnancy may be fatal to the baby.
The disease usually mild and often clears on its own. Most cases in the United States are caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses, which are most common in late summer and early fall. Viruses such as herpes simplex virus, HIV, mumps, West Nile virus and others also can cause viral disease.
Slow-growing organisms (such as fungi and Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that invade the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain cause chronic meningitis. It later develops over two weeks or more. The symptoms of this type of disease — headaches, fever, vomiting, and mental cloudiness — are similar to those of acute meningitis.
It is relatively uncommon and causes chronic meningitis. It may mimic acute bacterial meningitis. This types of the disease aren’t contagious from person to person. Cryptococcal meningitis is a common fungal form of the disease that affects people with immune deficiencies, such as AIDS. It’s life-threatening if not treated with an antifungal medication.
It can also result from noninfectious causes, such as chemical reactions, drug allergies, some types of cancer and inflammatory diseases such as sarcoidosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis
Early symptoms may mimic the flu (influenza). Symptoms may develop over several hours or over a few days.
Possible signs and symptoms in anyone older than the age of 2 includes:
- Sudden high fever
- Stiff neck
- Severe headache that seems different than normal
- Headache with nausea or vomiting
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Sleepiness or difficulty waking
- Sensitivity to light
- No appetite or thirst
- Skin rash (sometimes, such as in meningococcal meningitis)
Treatment of Meningitis
The treatment depends on the type of disease you or your child has.
The acute bacterial disease must be treated immediately with intravenous antibiotics and, more recently, corticosteroids. This helps to ensure recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures.
The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Your doctor may recommend a broad-spectrum antibiotic until he or she can determine the exact cause of the disease.
Your doctor may drain any infected sinuses or mastoids — the bones behind the outer ear that connect to the middle ear.
Antibiotics can’t cure viral this viral disease, and most cases improve on their own in several weeks. Treatment of mild cases of this disease usually includes:
- Bed rest
- Plenty of fluids
- Over-the-counter pain medications to help reduce fever and relieve body aches
Prevention of meningitis
Common bacteria or viruses that can cause the disease to spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating utensils, a toothbrush or a cigarette.
These steps can help prevent the disease:
- Wash your hands. Careful hand-washing helps prevent germs. Teach children to wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the toilet, spending time in a crowded public place or petting animals. Show them how to vigorously and thoroughly wash and rinse their hands.
- Practice good hygiene. Don’t share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else. Teach children and teens to avoid sharing these items too.
- Stay healthy. Maintain your immune system by getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Cover your mouth. When you need to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose.
- If you’re pregnant, take care of the food. Reduce your risk of listeriosis by cooking meat, including hot dogs and deli meat, to 165 F (74 C). Avoid cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Choose cheeses that are clearly labelled as being made with pasteurized milk.
Mayo clinic – meningitis, symptoms, and causes
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