Meningitis: A Guide to What You Need to Know
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the protective membrane that protects and covers the spinal cord and brain. At least 1,000 people in the U.S contract a form of the meningococcal disease annually. Usually, this inflammation of the fluid surrounding the meninges is triggered by either a viral or bacterial infection. However, Meningitis can also be caused by cancer, other diseases, certain drugs, and various injuries.
Meningitis is broadly categorized into three main types; Bacterial Meningitis, Viral Meningitis, and Fungal Meningitis. Other forms of Meningitis include Parasitic Meningitis, Amebic Meningitis, and Non-infectious Meningitis. While slightly different in terms of severity and symptoms, all kinds of Meningitis ultimately act the same way – a bacteria, virus or fungi, spreads through the bloodstream and eventually reaches and affects the linings or membranes of the spinal cord, the brain, or both.
Bacterial Meningitis is caused by bacteria and is often described as the most dangerous and lethal type of Meningitis. Bacterial Meningitis is more common in young children. Also, it is often life-threatening and demands immediate and proper medical attention. Symptoms may also occur suddenly.
Symptoms: Nausea, chills, stiff neck, altered mental status, headache, sensitivity to illuminated environments, patches, and bruises on the skin, vomiting, sleepiness, irritability.
Viral Meningitis, while dangerous, isn’t as severe as the bacterial kind. Most people with a healthy immune system will often fight it off on their own. Viral Meningitis is the most common kind of Meningitis. Generally, antibiotics are effective against viral Meningitis.
Symptoms: Lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, seizures, stiff neck, headaches, sensitivity to illuminated environments.
Fungal Meningitis is a rare form of Meningitis. Fungal Meningitis is often contracted by inhaling fungal spores. Also, people with a weaker immune system or medical conditions like cancer, HIV, or diabetes are more susceptible to this kind of Meningitis.
Both bacteria and viral Meningitis can be fatal. Visiting a medical facility is the only sure way to ascertain which you genuinely have.
Prevention of Meningitis
Viral and bacterial Meningitis can both be contagious. They can be spread through direct body contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, mucus, and feces. Also, viral Meningitis can be spread through coughing and sneezing.
A healthy lifestyle puts you at a lesser risk of contracting Meningitis. Meningitis can generally be prevented by;
· Avoiding bodily or direct contact with sick people
· Avoiding smoking
· Getting enough sleep and rest
· Practicing good personal hygiene
· Getting vaccinated. Vaccinations can prevent certain kinds of Meningitis.
· Avoid sharing certain personal items that can carry and spread bodily fluids, especially if you live in dorms, crowded environment, or hostels.
While generally considered a rare disease, Meningitis can be potentially life-threatening and fatal, especially the kind spread through bacteria. As with any other serious medical condition, early detection is key to quick or complete recovery. If you notice any of the following symptoms of Meningitis, ensure you seek medical help immediately.