Meningitis: Types, Treatment, & Prevention

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Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can occur when fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected.

The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Other causes may include:

  • Cancer
  • Chemical irritation
  • Fungi
  • Drug allergies

Viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious. They can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact.

Types of Meningitis:

Viral and bacterial infections are the common causes of meningitis. There are several other forms of meningitis.

Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. Viruses in the Enterovirus category cause 85 percent of the cases. These are more common during the summer and fall, and they include:

  • Coxsackievirus A
  • Coxsackievirus B
  • Echoviruses

Viruses in the Enterovirus category cause about 10 to 15 million infections per year, but only a small percentage of people who get infected will develop meningitis.

Other viruses that can cause meningitis include:

  • West Nile virus
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • HIV
  • Measles
  • Herpes viruses
  • Coltivirus, which causes Colorado tick fever

Viral meningitis typically goes away without treatment.

Bacterial Meningitis:

Bacterial meningitis is contagious and it is caused by the infection from a certain bacteria. It can be fatal if left untreated. Between 5 to 40 percent of children and 20 to 50 percent of adults, with this condition, die. This is true even with proper treatment.

Symptoms of Meningitis:

Symptoms of meningitis can vary depending on the age. The symptoms of Meningitis are as follows:

Viral Meningitis Symptoms:

Viral meningitis in infants may cause:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • A fever

In adults, viral meningitis may cause:

  • Headaches
  • A fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite

Bacterial Meningitis Symptoms

Bacterial meningitis symptoms develop suddenly. They may include:

  • Altered mental status
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A sensitivity to light
  • Irritability
  • A headache
  • A fever
  • Stiff neck

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly. There’s no way to know if you have bacterial or viral meningitis just by judging how you feel.

Risk Factors for Meningitis:

Some of the risk factors for meningitis are as follows:

Compromised Immunity:

People with an immune deficiency are more vulnerable to infections. This includes the infections that cause meningitis. Certain disorders and treatments can weaken your immune system. These include:

  • HIV
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chemotherapy
  • Organ or bone marrow transplants

Cryptococcal meningitis, caused by a fungus, is the most common form of meningitis in the people who have HIV or AIDS.

Community Living:

Meningitis is easily spread when people live in close quarters. Being in small spaces increase the chance of exposure. Examples of these locations include:

  • College dormitories
  • Barracks
  • Boarding schools
  • Day care centers

Pregnancy:

Pregnant women have an increased risk of listeriosis, which is an infection caused by the Listeria bacteria. Infection can spread to the unborn child.

Age:

All ages are at risk for meningitis. However, certain age groups have a higher risk. Children under the age of 5 are at an increased risk of viral meningitis.

Working with Animals:

Farm workers and others who work with animals have an increased risk of infection with Listeria.


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