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Thursday 2 October 2014


Meningitis – Infection of Protective Membranes – Brain and Spinal Cord

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord which collectively is known as the meninges. The infection to these membranes leads to inflammation causing damage to the nerves and the brain.

The inflammation could be due to the infection of viruses, bacteria or any other microorganisms and less commonly by some drugs. Meningitis could be life threatening due to the inflammation’s closeness to the brain and the spinal cord and this condition could be considered as a medical emergency.

Some of the common symptoms of meningitis are headache with stiffness in the neck which is associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and the inability to tolerate light – photophobia, or loud noise – phonophobia. Anyone may get affected with meningitis though babies and children under five are at more risk.

Could try the Glass Test

A baby or a child with meningitis may show symptoms like high fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting and refusing to being fed, feeling of agitation and not wanting to be picked up, being drowsy and unresponsive, grunting or breathing rapidly, have a tense bulging soft spot on the head and have convulsion or seizures.

If a rash appears, it may indicate a certain cause of meningitis such as meningitis caused to be meningococcal bacteria and could be accompanied by a characteristic rash. It is advised not to wait for the rash to develop and the person should seek immediate medical help and start treatment at the earliest.

 You could also try the glass test wherein when the side of a clear glass is firmly pressed against the skin and the rash does not fade, it is a sign of meningococcal septicaemia. The person with septicaemia has a rash with tiny pin pricks which develops later into purple bruising and a fever accompanied with rash which does not fade under pressure is a medical emergency and immediate medical help is essential.

Bacterial – Viral Meningitis

There are two types of meningitis namely bacterial meningitis which is caused by bacteria known as Neisseria meningitidis or Streptococcus pneumonia as well as through close contact and viral meningitis which is caused by viruses that can be spread through coughing, sneezing and poor hygiene. Bacterial meningitis is considered to be serious and should be treated immediately for if the bacterial infection is not treated it could cause severe brain damage, infecting the blood – septicaemia.

The number of bacterial and septicaemia has dropped considerably with the introduction of the vaccines which protect the person from several bacteria which could cause meningitis which include the meningitis C vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and MMR vaccine.

It is always necessary to be informative on the signs and symptoms to get timely medical help when faced with these symptoms. Bacterial meningitis often affect children under five years of age especially babies below one year and is also common among children between the age group of 15 to 19 years of age.

Viral Meningitis Can be Mistaken for Flu

Viral meningitis is more common but a less serious type of meningitis and is difficult to identify the number of viral meningitis case due to the symptoms being mild and can be mistaken for flu. It is common in children and spreads mostly during the summer.

 Diagnosing meningitis could be difficult since it usually comes on quickly and as the symptoms are similar to flu. It is recommended to seek medical help should the person have the symptoms of meningitis especially in the case of young children.

Viral meningitis usually tends to get better within a few weeks with sufficient amount of rest, painkillers for headache and anti-sickness together with medication for vomiting. If one is suspected of meningitis, treatment usually starts before the diagnosis is confirmed since some of the tests tend to take several hours to get completed and it could be dangerous to delay.

Intravenous Antibiotics

The physician carries out a physical examination to check for signs of meningitis or signs of septicaemia like a rash. They also carry out a number of other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Bacterial meningitis is treated with intravenous antibiotic which is given through a vein in the arm where admission to the hospital is essential. Severe cases are treated in intensive care in order to monitor and support the body’s viral functions.

In cases where the antibiotic is not effective, the person may have to stay on in the hospital for a week or less and if the infection tends to get severe, the stay in the hospital could be longer. Prevention of meningitis can be done by following the up to date vaccination schedule.

It is also essential to check if travel vaccinations are up to date if intending to travel in certain locations of the world. Children in the UK are given this vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination programme to safeguard them from this ailment.

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