Meningitis is an inflammation of the covering or lining around the spinal cord and brain. The lining consists of three layers— dura, arachnoid and pia. This inflammation is usually caused by either a virus or bacteria. Viral meningitis is less common and often less severe. TB and fungal infections are rare causes of meningitis.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Symptoms of meningitis include:
–Generalized aches and pains
–Seizures A rash sometimes developes with septicemia. This occurs when the infection has spread to the blood stream. It is most common in meningococcal meningitis, a form of meningitis caused by a bacteria ( Neisseria meningitidis).
Young children and older adults are most susceptible, but this disease can also commonly affect young adults in their late teens and twenties. At times meningitis can be caused by bacteria frequently seen in our mouth and upper airway. Some people can carry this bacteria and not be symptomatic because they have developed a certain amount of immunity. However they can still transmit it to other people with whom they come in close contact. It can be spread by sneezing, coughing, and kissing for example.
Vaccines are now available for Groups A and C meningococcal meningitis. College students are strongly encouraged to receive vaccines against these two types of meningitis. The vaccine is effective in about 80% of cases. Group B meningitis is the most common form of meningococcal meningitis and there is no vaccine for this form. In bacterial meningitis (eg. meningococcal, pneumococcal, HIB ) antibiotics are employed as treatment. Antibiotics are not effective in viral meningitis and supportive care and treatment of symptoms is provided. In most suspected cases of meningitis a spinal tap will be performed to evaluate the spinal fluid. This involves placing a needle in the spinal canal using a local anesthetic. As gruesome as this sounds it is usually not a painful test and it provides critical information to the physician. In any situation where meningitis is suspected it is important to seek the advice of your doctor or health clinic as soon as possible. Close family members or personal contacts should be closely observed for any signs of infection.