BLOG 188 MENINGITIS
Anyone can contract meningitis but is most common in ages 16-25, in those over age 55, and in newborns. This is a rare infection of the membranes called meninges. The membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. The fluid surrounding these areas has become infected. This disease comes in three forms, and usually spreads rampant in areas where people are in close contact with each other. For instance, college campuses with dorms have been known to contain the disease. Outbreaks are common in military barracks and in parts of Africa. There are vaccines to help protect us from this infection.
Possible signs include headache, fever, or having a stiff neck. The symptoms are very similar to the flu. Seizures, sensitivity to light, difficulty walking, and decreased appetite and thirst, are also possible indications. Newborns can also be infected and might constantly cry, have a lasting fever, and not feed well.
The most common type is viral meningitis. It is typically not the most serious type (but not always). Diarrhea is known to cause this. Bacteria meningitis is very serious and can cause brain damage when not treated immediately. The bacteria gets into the bloodstream through the ears, sinuses, or throat. Once infected, the bacteria travels in the bloodstream to the brain. It is the type that can be easily spread even through a cough or sneeze. Fungal meningitis is the least common type. People who have a suppressed immune system are the most susceptible.
It is important to keep up on recommended vaccinations. This includes in both childhood and adult life. This bacteria does spread quickly. Having a suppressed immune system puts someone at higher risk, especially for persons with AIDS, diabetes, or alcoholism. The longer the bacteria lives, the more severe the outcomes, especially the development of seizures. Severe cases result in hearing loss, learning disabilities, brain damage, shock, loss of memory, and death.
The bacteria spreads itself when in contact with coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing toothbrushes, food, or cigarettes. Hand washing, proper hygiene, and covering your mouth and nose, are preventative measures. Having the appropriate vaccinations including Hib, PCV13, PPSV23, and meningococcal can help ward off the spreading and contraction.
Viral meningitis can typically be treated with Tylenol. Most people can fully recover within 10 days. Bacterial and fungal meningitis can often result in hospital care. The patient is put on an IV and heart monitor. Anti-biotics are then injected through the veins. Steroids can also help. Hydration becomes very important. Severe cases of bacterial and fungal meningitis can result in death and long-term disabilities. Make sure to be aware of your environment, get the vaccinations, and always wash your hands. We are taught to share, but sometimes keeping our germs to ourselves isn’t selfish when our health is at risk.