Meningitis is an acute contagious disease causing inflammation of the outer covering of the brain (meninges) and upper spinal column. The two primary kinds of meningitis are viral and bacterial, but it may be caused by other microorganisms including fungal, and parasitic. Meningitis may also be caused by other diseases, like Lyme disease that can affect the lining of the brain.
Who can get Meningitis?
Both viral and bacterial meningitis are most often diagnosed in children, teens, young adults and other high-risk individuals like those suffering from weakened or diminished immune system. Seniors are also at risk for meningitis, especially if they have any other illness that may affect their health.
Viral meningitis won’t normally have serious results, and in the worst case it may result in high fever and seizures. Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand can lead to very serious brain damage, and may be fatal. Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis.
What Causes Meningitis?
The cause of Meningitis includes viruses and bacteria that can carry the contagious illness and disproportionally affect high risk individuals like elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
In high risk groups, care must be given to prevent passing viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis through coughing and sneezing, improperly washing hands or other ways to pass contagions when people are in close contact.
How do you get meningitis?
Either viral or bacterial meningitis can be contracted by being in close contact with an infected individual. The bacteria can not live outside of the body for long, either in the air or on the surface of clothes, bedding, or furniture. Even when the bacteria is passed to an uninfected person, normally the body’s immune system will kill the bacteria before it attacks.
Viral meningitis is diagnosed more often in summer months, and bacterial meningitis is more common in winter months. February is typically the most active month for people being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
Although a person may have contracted meningitis, it does not exclude them from having the disease again. It is very rare to get the disease once, but there is nothing stopping the disease from striking multiple times.
Agents known to be cause of meningitis include:
- Viruses (herpes viruses, Adenovirus, Arbovirus)
- Bacteria (Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Haemophilus, etc).
- Fungi (Cryptococcus)
- Parasites (Naegleria)
Symptoms of Meningitis
Symptoms of Meningitis include:
- Fever with occasional chills
- Extreme headache with depression
- Tiredness and general malaise
- Seizures or short term neurological lapses – memory, awareness, consciousness
Symptoms of Meningeal irritation are sore knees, stiff neck when you flex it, arching of the back, and associated flexing of the neck and movement of the knee.
As the disease advances, increased intracranial pressure will result in: modified state of consciousness, projectile vomiting, dilated pupils, high blood pressure, slower heart rates, abnormal respiration and intense headaches.
Increased intracranial pressure in infants will result in protruding fontanels, high-pitched crying, expanding head diameter and wider cranial sutures. Any sign of these meningitis symptoms are reasons to be concerned, and the infant should be taken immediately to the hospital.
When there is time to see your family doctor, diagnosis of meningitis symptoms will normally include: Lumbar puncture tests, blood tests and cranial cat-scans.
To help with the treatment of meningitis symptoms, patients must have adequate rest with the room quiet and with low intensity lighting. However, don’t keep the patient alone – someone must tend to them constantly.
When treating meningitis, the diet should have high protein, high calorie count and should consist of small regular meals.