To what extent do you understand the meningitis disease? You may be aware that it is a condition that is life-threatening and that it inflames the spinal cord and brain – and you'd be correct! The meninges is the collective name for the three membranes that envelope the brain and spinal cord (Central Nervous System) called the dura mater, the arachnoid mater, and the pia mater. The meninges main function is to protect the central nervous system.
Even though a virus or bacteria most commonly cause meningitis, there are other factors that can lead to the disease as well. These include illness, certain drugs and also physical injury. The meningitis disease is categorized into 5 types – Viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic and non-infectious. Each type is as a result of different causes.
All types of meningitis condition have similar symptoms with just a few differences. The cause determines the severity of the disease and how you will get treatment. Identifying the type of meningitis is vital as it assists in receiving the proper treatment.
Here are the various types of meningitis:
This type of meningitis develops as a result of bacteria entering the bloodstream, and spreads to the spinal cord and the brain. It can as well take place when bacteria occupy the meninges directly. This can occur in the case of a skull fracture and a sinus or an ear infection.
Excess bacteria can result in acute bacterial meningitis.
- Pneumococcus. This bacterium is believed to be the source of bacterial meningitis among infants, children and even adults in the US. It also causes ear infections and pneumonia. A vaccine can assist in preventing this infection.
- Meningococcus. This is another top source of bacterial meningitis. They are well known for causing respiratory infection and meningococcal meningitis. It’s considered as highly contagious and affects mostly young adults and teenagers. It can cause epidemics in military bases and learning institutions like boarding schools. A vaccine can restrain it.
- Haemophilus. Earlier, Hib bacterium was the top source of bacterial meningitis in young ones. But the introduction of new vaccines changed all that by reducing the number of new meningitis cases in children.
- Listeria. Supplied by hot dogs, luncheon meats, and unpasteurized cheeses, this bacterium attacks mostly newborns, pregnant women, people with poor functioning immune systems and older adults.
Organisms that grow slowly and invade fluid around the brain and your membranes further the development of chronic meningitis. This type of meningitis forms over 2 weeks or even more. It manifests with symptoms like fever, headaches, mental cloudiness and vomiting which are the same as the ones for acute meningitis.
Viral meningitis is not severe and most of the time it disappears without any treatment. In the US, it’s commonly triggered by viruses called enteroviruses. The viruses emerge during the beginning of fall and end of summer. Viral meningitis can also be caused by viruses like mumps, HIV and West Nile virus. Viral meningitis can also be caused due to mosquito-borne viruses.
Fungal meningitis is a rare case of meningitis and can result in chronic meningitis. Sometimes it can appear with symptoms similar to the ones for acute bacterial meningitis. It mostly affects individuals with low immune like people with AIDS. If not treated, the condition can cause death.
Causing a rapidly progressing brain infection, PAM (amebic meningoencephalitis) is very rare and is caused by a parasite referred to as Naegleria fowleri. This parasite can be found in freshwater sources that are warm, i.e., hot springs, rivers, and lakes.
This kind of meningitis is not contagious. It develops as a result of brain surgery, lupus, head injury, certain drugs or cancer.
Symptoms of Meningitis:
Identifying that you have meningitis is not always easy. In many cases, meningitis may be progressing without any symptoms. At the initial stage, the symptoms of meningitis can be similar to that of a flu. Though, people with meningitis can become severely ill within hours. So, therefore it is necessary to understand the signs and symptoms.
Possible signs and symptoms in anyone above the age of 2 :
- Sudden high fever
- Muscle pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Sleepiness or difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
- No appetite or thirst
- Stiff neck
- A rash that does not fade under pressure. The rash may initially be present only on certain spots of the body, but then it may gradually spread and look like fresh bruises. This happens because the blood has leaked into the tissue under the skin. The rash or spots may initially fade and then come back.
Signs in newborn babies:
- A high-pitched moan
- A bulging fontenelle
- High fever
- Excessive sleepiness or irritability
- Floppy and listless or stiff with jerky movements
- Refusing feeds
- Pale or blotchy skin
- Red or purple spots that do not fade under pressure.
When to see a doctor:
There are a few symptoms for which which you have to seek immediate medical care. These symptoms are:
- Severe and persistent headache
- Stiff neck
- High Fever
Spread of Meningitis:
As discussed earlier, meningitis is spread through various viruses. The different types of viruses have been discussed above. Below are some of the most common ways of the spread of meningitis.
During birth: A mother can pass germs that cause meningitis during delivery of a child, even if the mother has no symptoms . Both bacteria and viruses can be transmitted during child birth.
Through coughing and sneezing:
There are certain bacteria which meningitis, that are found in the saliva or mucus of the nose and throat. This infection can therefore be spread by coughing and sneezing.
Through kissing, sexual contact, or contact with infected blood: Meningitis causing virus can also be spread through sexual contact, blood or by kissing.
From eating certain food: Consuming food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause meningitis. Those at greater risk for this include pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Through stool: Most children that develop meningitis contract it through this way, compared to adults. Stools could have viruses that cause meningitis. Washing hands on a regular basis can help prevent this.