MENINGITIS


 

WHAT IS MENINGITIS?

Meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is also referred to as spinal meningitis. Meningitis may develop in response to a number of causes, usually bacteria or viruses, but meningitis can also be caused by physical injury, cancer or certain drugs.

 

RISK FACTORS

  • Age
    • Viral meningitis occurs mostly in children younger than age 5.
    • Before the availability of effective vaccines, bacterial meningitis was most commonly diagnosed in young children. Now, as a result of the protection offered by current childhood vaccines, bacterial meningitis is more commonly diagnosed among pre-teens and young adults.
  • Community setting
    • Infectious diseases tend to spread quickly wherever larger groups of people gather together. As a result, college students living in dormitories, military personnel and children in childcare facilities are at an increased risk.
  • Pregnancy
    • Pregnant women are at an increased risk of catching listeriosis. The bacteria that cause listeriosis, listeria bacteria, can also cause meningitis. The unborn baby of a pregnant woman with listeriosis is also at risk.
  • Working with animals.
    • Dairy farmers, ranchers, and other people who work with domestic animals are at an increased risk of contracting listeriosis. The bacteria that cause listeriosis, listeria bacteria, can also cause meningitis.
  • Weakened immune system. 
    • There are certain diseases, medications and surgical procedures that may weaken the immune system and increase risk of meningitis.

TYPES, CAUSES, AND HOW THEY ARE SPREAD

  • Bacterial Meningitis is usually more severe. It can have serious after-effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, limb amputation, or learning disabilities.
    • Causes vary by age group
      • Newborns - Group B Streptococci, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes
      • Infants - Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae
      • Children - N. meningitidis, S. pneumoniae
      • Adults - S. pneumoniae, N. meningitidis, Mycobacteria
    • Bacterial meningitis is contagious. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (i.e., coughing, kissing). Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.
  • Viral Meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment. 
    • Most cases are caused by viral infections
      • Mumps
      • Herpesvirus, including Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex viruses, varicella-zoster virus (which also causes chicken pox and shingles), measles, and influenza
      • Viruses spread through mosquitoes and other insects (arboviruses)
      • In rare cases LCMV (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus), which is spread by rodents, can cause viral meningitis
    • Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread from person to person through fecal contamination (which can occur when changing a diaper or using the toilet and not properly washing hands afterwards). Enteroviruses can also be spread through respiratory secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) of an infected person. Other viruses, such as mumps and varicella-zoster virus, may also be spread through direct or indirect contact with saliva, sputum, or mucus of an infected person.
  • Fungal Meningitis is rare, but can be life threatening. Although anyone can get fungal meningitis, people at higher risk include those who have AIDS, leukemia, or other forms of immunodeficiency (an immune system that does not respond adequately to infections) and immunosuppression (immune system malfunction as a result of medical treatment).
    • Causes of Fungal Meningitis
      • Cryptococcus - The most common cause of fungal meningitis for people with immune system deficiencies, like HIV.
      • Candida - The fungus that causes thrush.
      • Histoplasma - A fungus found primarily in soil or bird/bat droppings in the Midwestern United States, although it can be seen in other places.
      • Coccidioides - A fungus found in soil in Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
    • Fungal meningitis is not contagious. It is not transmitted from person to person.
  • Non-infectious Meningitis
    • Causes
      • Cancers
      • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
      • Certain drugs
      • Head injury
      • Brain surgery
    • This type of meningitis is not spread from person to person.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Meningitis infection is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck.

Brudzinski's sign of meningitis

Kernig's sign of meningitis

Symptoms-Of-Meningitis-Among-Young-Adults-2

FOR OTHER SYMPTOMS OF MENINGITIS - CLICK HERE

DIAGNOSIS

If meningitis is suspected, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid are collected and sent to the laboratory for testing. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis because the severity of illness and the treatment will differ depending on the cause.

TREATMENT

  • Bacterial Meningitis - Can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics.
  • Viral Meningitis - There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. Antibiotics do not help viral infections, so they are not useful in the treatment of viral meningitis. Most patients completely recover on their own within 7 to 10 days. A hospital stay may be necessary in more severe cases or for people with weak immune systems.
  • Fungal Meningitis -Treated with long courses of high dose antifungal medications. This is usually given using an IV line and is done in the hospital.

PREVENTION

  • Bacterial Meningitis - Keeping up to date with the recommended immunizations is the best defense. Meningococcal, Pneumococcal, and Hib vaccines are effective for three bacteria that cause meningitis: Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
  • Viral Meningitis - There are no vaccines for the most common causes of viral meningitis. Click HERE for some steps you can take to help lower your chances of becoming infected with viruses or of passing one on to someone else.

For more information about Meningitis, visit the CDC website.

To get your child vaccinated, call and make an appointment at (308) 385-5175

 

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