Spotlight on Meningitis
is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These
membranes, or linings, are called meninges. There are two primary types of
meningitis—viral and bacterial. The viral type is caused by a virus. It’s the
less serious form, and it usually takes about 10 days before it resolves (goes
meningitis is the most dangerous form. A bacterium called meningococcus is the
most common cause of bacterial meningitis. This type of bacteria live in the
back of the nose of healthy people. It’s thought that about 5 to 10 percent of
the population are harboring the bacterium at any given time. It develops into
meningitis when the bacteria get into the bloodstream and travel to the meninges.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes the bacteria to get into the bloodstream.
meningitis is a fast-moving illness that can cause brain damage, deafness, loss
of limbs and even death. It’s fatal in about 10 percent of cases.
Vaccine protects against two
three types—called serogroups—of the meningococcal bacterium, groups A, B and C.
There is currently a vaccine that protects against groups A and C. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the shot for children ages 11
to 12, unvaccinated adolescents entering high school sand college freshmen who
live in dormitories.
What causes meningitis to
and bacterial meningitis are spread through close, face-to-face contact that
allows for the exchange of salivary fluid, such as coughing, sneezing and
Who’s most likely to develop
common age groups affected by meningitis include:
- Children under 5
- People ages 16
- People older
meningitis tends to develops most frequently in the winter months, and viral
meningitis occurs more often in the summer. Researchers do not know why this is
Meningitis is a medical
meningitis often appear suddenly and include:
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Difficulty being
around bright lights
- Fever, often
- Rash anywhere on
the body that doesn’t turn white when pressed
If you have
these symptoms, or you are seeing them in someone else, it’s important to get
medical attention quickly. Meningitis can develop—and even kill—rapidly. Even if
you’re not sure whether the symptoms are meningitis, anyone who develops these
symptoms so quickly should see a doctor right away.
How is it treated?
for bacterial meningitis is generally very aggressive, and includes strong
antibiotics. Even when treatment is aggressive, complete recovery is not always
guaranteed. That’s why it’s so important to get medical attention as soon as
these sudden, severe symptoms begin. People who have been in close contact with
the person who has meningitis should also receive antibiotics.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke; National Meningitis Association.