Meningitis is described as the inflammation and infection of the spinal cord and the brain through their surrounding membranes. Though there are a number of types of meningitis, viral and bacterial meningitis are the most common.
Viral Meningitis: This normally comes in a mild form. It disappears in a week or two on its own with no treatment needed. This type is also known as aseptic meningitis.
Bacterial Meningitis: This form of meningitis is severe compared with the viral one. It’s considered life-threatening and causes complicated diseases that can end up damaging the brain or causing death.
Bacterial meningitis is:
- A severe infection of the liquid that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain.
- Is commonly caused by 3 kinds of bacteria, i.e., Streptococcus pneumonia, Neisseria meningitidis, and Haemophilus influenza.
- Contagious, and getting close to an infected person can lead to the spread of the disease.
- Is curable and can be tackled with antibiotics.
- Preventable through rapid diagnosis, vaccines, and fast treatment.
What you need to know about meningitis:
- About 1.2 million people in the world get afflicted with or killed by meningitis every year.
- About 120,000 people die every year from bacterial meningitis.
- About 10% of patients suffering from bacterial meningitis will die between 24 and 48 hours after experiencing symptoms even if they get diagnosed and treated early. 20% of the patients will experience disability and permanent damage.
- Most of the people at risk are young children below five years old and adolescents that are aged between 15 and 19. However, everybody is susceptible to the disease at any age.
- Most meningitis cases have been recorded in developing countries. This is because of poverty, lack of vaccine awareness, and most of all, overcrowding.
- Surviving meningitis can come with other serious conditions like seizures, learning difficulties, loss of limbs, and brain damage, hence causing devastation to the afflicted.
- Many people are ignorant of the alarming signs, or the fact that meningitis can be prevented with the use of vaccines.
What is the bacterium that causes bacterial meningitis?
Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumonia, and Haemophilus influenza are the 3 types of bacteria that generate the production of bacterial meningitis.
To prevent the further spread of the condition or speed up the treatment process of meningitis, it’s vital to know the type of bacteria that caused the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis:
The symptoms of both viral and bacterial meningitis may appear the same in the beginning but within a few weeks, a clear distinction can be made between the two. However, the symptoms of bacterial meningitis are usually more severe. Moreover, these symptoms may vary depending upon the age of an individual.
Symptoms of viral meningitis in infants:
- Loss of appetite
- High Fever
- Excessive sleepiness
- Lethargy and inactivity
- Constant crying
- A bulge arising in the soft portion on the top of the baby’s head
- Body and neck become stiff
Symptoms of viral meningitis in adults:
- Severe headache
- Stiffness in the body and neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor appetite
- Lethargy and drowsiness
- Eyes become sensitive to bright light
Bacterial meningitis is considered more serious and severe, and proves fatal for an individual if a careless attitude is taken towards the same. Immediate antibiotic treatment is recommended, since any delay may lead to permanent brain damage or may put the life of the victim at risk. The symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental retardation
- Sensitivity to light develops
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
An experienced medical practitioner should be contacted if these symptoms are experienced. Moreover, proper tests should be performed to determine the type of meningitis present, since bacterial meningitis can be severe and deadly.
Bacterial meningitis is very common in children and infants. Nevertheless, anyone can get the disease. People who come into close contact with patients infected with bacterial meningitis caused by Hib or Neisseria are as well at a higher risk. This usually involves people in school dormitories and daycare centers. Meningitis may also arise due to following:
- Skipped vaccinations: One should always complete their childhood and adulthood vaccination schedule, since absence or delay in the same puts the future health of the person at risk.
- Age: Viral meningitis is common in children below the age of 5, whereas most cases of bacterial meningitis is observed in those under the age of 20.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are more prone to the risk of listeriosis which may lead to meningitis. Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes and may increase the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery.
- Weakened immune system: Alcohol addiction, diabetes, STD’s, and regular doses of immunosuppressant drugs have a deleterious effect on the immune system of a person and this makes him/her more susceptible to meningitis. A patient whose spleen has been removed through a surgical process should get vaccinated in order to minimize the risk of meningitis.
- Staying in a community setup: Students staying in boarding schools and hostels, or the military personnel in camps and bases have a greater risk of meningococcal meningitis. This is because the bacterium spreads through the respiratory canal, and people in large groups may encounter this issue by breathing the same air.
The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is diagnosed by developing bacteria from a spinal fluid sample. A sample is obtained through the use of a spinal tap. A needle is injected into the back of the infected patient and fluid is removed. To get correct treatment, the identification of the responsible bacteria is vital.
Treatment for meningitis
Diagnosing the disease early will tremendously help in treating meningitis. The patient should make sure that they contact their health practitioner immediately if they experience any meningitis symptoms. Many effective antibiotics can be used to treat meningitis, and the earlier they are administered, the better.
- Vaccines can help prevent the occurrence of meningitis.
- Reporting the disease to healthcare facilities can help a lot as a medical team can be sent to the affected area to bring awareness and avoid the further spread of the disease.
- Treating people who are in close contact with those with meningitis as a preventive measure
- Taking precautions before travelling