Meningitis

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial form of meningitis. It is a serious infection of the meninges that affects the brain membrane and can cause severe brain damage. Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. It is fatal in 50% of cases if left untreated.

Several different bacteria can cause meningitis. Neisseria meningitidis is the one with the potential to cause large epidemics. Twelve serogroups of N. meningitidis have been identified, six of which (A, B, C, W135, X and Y) can cause epidemics.

Transmission

  • The bacteria is transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers.
  • Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters with an infected person facilitates the spread of the disease.

Risk Factors

  • The risk of meningitis is higher if you or your child has not completed the recommended childhood or adult vaccination schedule.
  • Most cases of viral meningitis occur in children younger than age 5.
  • Bacterial meningitis commonly affects people under 20.
  • People living in a community setting (dormitories, military bases, boarding schools, child care facilities) are at increased risk because the bacterium is spread by the respiratory route and tends to spread quickly wherever large groups congregate.
  • If you’re pregnant, you’re at increased risk of contracting listeriosis — an infection caused by listeria bacteria, which also may cause meningitis. If you have listeriosis, your unborn baby is at risk, too.
  • If you have a compromised immune system (AIDS, alcoholism, diabetes and use of immunosuppressant drugs), you are also more susceptible to meningitis.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sudden high fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Vomiting or nausea with headache
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking up
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Lack of interest in drinking and eating
  • Skin rash in some cases, such as in meningococcal meningitis

Complications

  • Hearing loss
  • Memory difficulty
  • Learning disabilities
  • Brain damage
  • Gait problems
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Death

Prevention

  • Wash your hands
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Maintain your immune system
  • Vaccination

Vaccines available to prevent Meningitis:

Influenza Vaccines
Pneumonia Vaccines
Meningitis Vaccines

Resources for this article:
http://www.mayoclinic.com
http://www.who.int
http://www.cdc.gov