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Meningitis Information, Facts

Meningitis can be described as a condition that is caused by an inflammation in the meninges, or the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. The inflammation usually occurs because of an infection. The condition is characterized by severe headaches, fever and a stiff neck. Although anyone can suffer from this affliction, it is more common to see meningitis in children, than in adults.

There are different microorganisms that can lead to meningitis.
The most common form on meningitis is a viral one, but a person could also suffer from meningitis caused by bacterial or fungal infections. Based on the factors that cause the problem, meningitis is usually resolved within a few weeks. However, in some people, meningitis could be severe or even life-threatening. In some cases, this disease could also lead to permanent side effects, like brain damage, hearing loss or vision problems. Therefore, it is best to take the right steps to avoid meningitis. Fortunately, most cases of meningitis can be treated, using medication. There are several people who also use home and natural remedies for alleviating the symptoms of meningitis and to speed up the recovery process. Although there is no specific diet for meningitis to be followed, it is advisable to eat a lot of nutritious foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, to boost the body’s immunity, so that the infection-causing microorganisms can be fought off.

It is possible to reduce the risks of contracting this disease by getting yourself immunized, with the help of a meningitis vaccine. In fact, in the United States, many colleges and dorms make it mandatory for students to get themselves immunized against this condition. Getting yourself vaccinated is also compulsory in case you plan to travel to certain countries. However, individuals who have had allergic reactions to any previous meningococcal vaccine should consult a doctor before getting immunized. While these vaccinations are considered safe for pregnant women, it is important to get a doctor’s approval before going in for it.

Is meningitis contagious?

There are several people who wonder if meningitis is contagious or not, mainly because of the contradictory reports. This is due to the fact that there are different organisms that lead to the disease. Viral meningitis is the highly contagious meningitis, as it spreads easily from one person to the other, especially in case of children. Once a person is exposed to the meningitis virus, the incubation period is around 10 days or so. After this period the disease can be spread to others for a long period of time. Viral meningitis is the airborne meningitis, as the virus could enter an uninfected person’s respiratory system, through an unguarded cough or sneeze.

On the other hand, bacterial meningitis is not very contagious, as the disease-causing bacteria cannot survive outside the human body for a very long time. Bacterial meningitis generally only spreads from one person to the other, by kissing or sharing personal belongings like glasses, toothbrushes, utensils and so on. Bacterial meningitis is also a lot more serious, as compared to the viral one. It is often referred to as the deadly meningitis, since it can be life-threatening, if it is not treated in the right way. In some cases, patients could also suffer from instances of recurring meningitis. Like all other forms of meningitis, this occurrence is quite serious and should be checked by a health care provider, without any delay.

Meningitis Symptoms

Although there are several meningitis symptoms in adults and children, it is easy to mistake the condition for the flu, as many of the signs are common. The common meningitis symptoms in children could take anywhere between a few hours and 3 days to develop. Given below are some of the most common meningitis signs in kids: 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drowsiness, accompanied by difficulty in waking up
  • Difficulties in concentrating or confusion
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Moderate or even high fever
  • Appearance of a rash on the skin
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe headaches that are unlike any other headaches ever experienced
Viral meningitis symptoms are usually a bit milder, as compared to bacterial meningitis signs. People suffering from viral meningitis usually suffer only headaches, fever and lethargy. In many cases, the symptoms of viral meningitis begin to show an improvement after a couple of days, even without medical treatment being administered. Nevertheless, it is important to consult a doctor in case any of these symptoms are evident.

The meningitis signs in infants and toddlers may be a bit different from the meningitis symptoms in teenagers and adults. Given below are the signs that indicate the presence of meningitis in infants and toddlers:
  • Stiffness in the neck as well as the body
  • Poor feeding
  • Increase irritability and drowsiness
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Appearance of a bulge on the child’s head
  • Sluggishness of lack of regular activity
  • Incessant crying

Meningitis Causes

There are several different microorganisms that could lead to meningitis, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Viral infections are the most common meningitis causes in children. Most of the reported cases of meningitis are a result of viral infections in the body. The main viral meningitis causes include a group of viruses that are known as enteroviruses. However, there could some a few other viral meningitis causes too, which include the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), La Crosse Virus and the West Nile virus.

Acute bacterial meningitis causes include the entry of certain bacteria into the bloodstream. These bacteria then migrate to the spinal cord and the brain. At times, the bacteria could also infect the meninges because of sinusitis, an ear infection or a fractured skull. There are several strains of bacteria that can lead to meningitis, which include the streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria Meningitidis, Haemophilus Influenzae and Listeria Monocytogenes.

Spinal meningitis refers to an infection in the spinal and brain fluid. The severity of this condition can vary, based on the causes and the overall health of the affected patient. Spinal meningitis causes could include viruses, as well as bacteria. Viral spinal meningitis, also known as aseptic meningitis is fairly mild and non-lethal. Bacterial spinal meningitis is a bit uncommon, but can be deadly.

Meningitis Treatment

Meningitis treatment guidelines may vary based on the type of infection the patient is suffering from. In case of a bacterial infection, most doctors administer meningitis treatment with antibiotics. In order to reduce the risks of complications, cortisone-like medication may also be prescribed. In some cases, doctors may also recommend treatments for brain swelling, convulsions, shock and dehydration as a part of bacterial meningitis cure.

Since antibiotics have no effect on viruses, they are never included as a part of viral meningitis cure. In case of those kids suffering from viral meningitis, doctors usually recommend simple therapies and remedies. Mild meningitis treatment in children or even adults could include:
  • Over the counter medication for fever and aches
  • Bed rest
  • Drinking a lot of fluids
  • Eating a healthy diet
What is the medical treatment for meningitis?

The medical treatment for bacterial meningitis usually includes a combination of antibiotics and cortisone-like medicines. However, in case of viral meningitis, health care providers do not prescribe any medication for the virus. They may just recommend an over the counter medicine, for alleviating the symptoms of the condition, such as fever and pain. In addition to that, it is advisable for the patient to get a lot of rest and follow a healthy diet. Some people also resort to the use of a meningitis remedy to boost the immune system, fight off the infection and speed up the recovery process. The remedies people opt for include garlic supplements, ginseng herbal supplements and astralgus herbal supplements. However, there is no clinical evidence to prove the effectiveness of these herbal supplements for meningitis.
Submitted on January 16, 2014