What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis comes from the word called Meninges.  Meningitis is caused by four types of infections:

  • Bacterial
  • Fungal
  • Amoebic
  • Viral

The most common Meningitis is Bacterial which can live dormant in the nose, throat or upper respiratory tract of the infected individual and can be carried for days, weeks and sometimes months before experiencing any signs or symptoms of the disease.  About 1 in 10 cases of Meningitis can be fatal and 1 out of 7 of the people diagnosed survives with a disability from the disease such as brain damage or hearing impaired.

There is an estimate that nearly 25% of the population carries Bacterial Meningitis and 15% carries Viral Meningitis at some time or another but the body fights the disease off and therefore Meningitis does not develop.  The incubation period for the existence of bacterial meningitis is about 2-10 days.  Below are the types of diagnosis that are associated with Bacterial Meningitis.

  • TB Meningitis which is caused by Bacillus Tubercle Bacteria
  • Hib Meningitis caused by Hemophilic Influenza Type B Bacteria results in brain damage and deafness
  • Neonatal Meningitis caused by Escherichia Coli or Streptococcus Agalactiae Bacteria, commonly found in newborns/infants
  • Pneumococcal Meningitis caused Streptococcus Pneumonia, which its first stages are cold like symptoms
  • Meimgoccal Meningitis caused by Meningococcal bacteria which has five main types, types A, B, C, W135, and Y.
  • Septicemia Meningitis caused by a series of germs; related to blood poisoning; life threatening and can develop with or without the presence of Meningitis.

 

Fungal Meningitis is the Cryptococcus Neo format fungus is yeast like the germ and lives in soil.

Amoebic Meningitis which is found in Amoeba which is geothermal and lives in stagnating pools of fresh water at the temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius.

Viral Meningitis is a series of viruses that form an infection with herpes simplex, measles, polio, chickenpox or mumps and is known to be associated with Coxsackie virus and Echoviruses.

Symptoms

The Symptoms of Meningitis can vary.  The severity of the disease depends on the child’s age and what has caused the disease.  In some cases, people can carry the germ and cause meningitis without any signs of illness.  Without any symptoms of the disease, it can easily spread.  A person can become infected with a bacterium or viral illness may not develop meningitis.  Meningitis can develop with medication, a form of cancer or other diseases that can inflame the brain and spinal cord.

The first sign of Meningitis is cold like symptoms.  Signs such as a runny nose, stomach ache, fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting detect that there is a bacteria or viral infection.  The symptoms of bacterial and viral meningitis are similar during the first stages of the disease.  Viral meningitis is milder than Bacterial.  Viral Meningitis cannot be cured through antibiotics, it is best to treat like a cold and let the virus run its course.

If a child is exposed to Bacterial Meningitis he/she will need to be hospitalized for monitoring of treatments and further examination of the disease.  In order to determine an accurate identification of the infection, it is imperative to been seen by a physician so that proper diagnosis can be provided for effective recovery.

For newborns and infants that have developed the disease, signs of irritability and lethargic is a way to detect an infant has Meningitis.  This is hard to identify because the mother may think the child is developing a cold so she may hold the infant for comforting which makes the child more distress on the account of body ache.

The symptoms of Meningitis in infants and newborns are jaundice, a stiffness of the body and neck, a mild fever, a lower than normal temperature, poor feeding or weakness in sucking bottle or breast and a high pitched cry, that can often be mistaken for the three-day crying disease.  If you suspect that your child has developed any of these signs or symptoms, contact your child’s physician immediately.

Transmission

Meningitis is an airborne disease and the common cause for exposure to the disease is through drops of fluid relating to the infected person such as runny nose or cough.  Meningitis cannot live outside of the body so the touching of counter tops, casual contact with someone at work or school or any other contact related cases does not expose Meningitis.  Meningitis is mostly spread between people who live together and have direct contact with one another such as kissing, drinking from the same glass or the sharing of eating utensils.  A person can also be exposed through the sharing toilet stool which is how children in daycare facilities contract the disease from one another.

Meningitis Prevention

In order to prevent you and your family from encountering Meningitis, it is best to practice good hand washing at all times prior to eating and after the use of the restroom and if you think someone is ill, avoid direct contact with that person like drinking and sharing of food.

Although there is not a vaccination to help minimize the spread of Meningitis or protect us from it, cases of Viral Meningitis can be prevented by receiving vaccination for diseases such as Measles, Polio, Chickenpox or Mumps. Proper immunization can allow you or your child to fight off any viral disease the body may encounter.

The availability of new vaccines for Bacterial Meningitis has been formed in order to help children under the age of 5 to fight off bacterial meningitis.  The Hib vaccine fights Hib Meningitis, which is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis and is associated with Pneumococcal Meningitis also called Type C.  The Hib Vaccine can be given simultaneously with other vaccines and should be given to a child between the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months of age and then followed by a booster shot at 12-15 months old.  An alternate name for Hib is ActHIB, HibTITTER or PedvaxHIB.

The other type of vaccine is the Prevnar Vaccine which protects about 7 out of 80 commonalities associated with Streptococcus Pneumonia and those 7 commonalities account for over 86% of infections that infants develop.

For adults 65 years of age or older, a vaccine called Pneumovax is given to seniors who suffer with the sickle cell disease, HIV infection and other conditions. Adults who receive this vaccine are protected within 2-3 weeks.

For students who live in dorm rooms on college campus, the Menomune Vaccine is polysaccharide vaccine that fights off bacterial meningitis type A, B, C, W135 and Y but does not provide protection against Type B which can cause brain damage and deafness.

Diagnosis of Meningitis

To determine the stage in which your child has Meningitis, the doctor will perform a physical examination, laboratory tests and a lumbar puncture, which is a spinal tap to collect spinal fluid for signs of inflammation and the type of micro-organism that may have caused the infection.  Once determined what type of Meningitis your child has encountered, the doctor can then prescribe the proper medication to begin treatment of the disease.  If the child has been diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis, he/she will be hospitalized for monitoring and placed in intensive care.  After proper diagnosis, patients are still contagious and remain contagious during the symptoms and the first 24 hours after taking antibiotics.

Treatment Process of Meningitis

Depending on the cause of the disease, the child will need to have a Corticosteroid which reduces the inflammation of the meninges (spinal cord and brain).  If the child experience seizures during the disease, Anticonvulsants is given to control the seizures.  Intravenous Fluids (IV) is given to make sure that the child stays hydrated from loses of fluids due to sweating, fever, vomiting, and poor appetite.  In Bacterial Meningitis, a child may have difficulty breathing so therefore supplemental oxygen or ventilation is used to help the child’s breathing condition and a follow up for a hearing test is recommended after prognosis of Meningitis.  Children who have been exposed to the disease often has a problem with impaired hearing

If a child has Viral Meningitis, depending on the child’s condition, a child may or may not be hospitalized.  Often times, children are allowed to recover at home.  If children are allowed to recover at home, the child should be closely monitored using proper nursing care instructed by your physician.  If the child does not seem to recuperate and conditions worsen, a visit to the hospital will be appropriate.

Viral meningitis should be treated like a cold, drinking plenty of fluids, getting plenty of rest, and taking over the counter pain medication such as Tylenol, Advil or Moltrin.  Do Not Take Aspirin, make sure that the medication your child is taking for pain has acetaminophen.  Recovery time is usually within 10 days after diagnosis but the child may experience headaches, tiredness or depression for weeks and in some cases months after treatment.

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