Meningitis is inflammation of leptomeninges, the protective covering of brain and spinal cord, caused by infectious agents. Meningitis is a life threatening condition and it requires immediate treatment. In meningitis, the patient complains of severe headache, stiffness of neck, projectile vomiting and high body temperature. Patient looks very sick.
Microorganisms such as virus, bacteria and fungus are the common causes. Most of the cases of meningitis in USA are due to virus infection. Due to high morbidity and mortality rate, meningitis should be treated as early as possible.
It is always said, prevention is better than cure and same is true with meningitis.With advent of newer generation of vaccinations it is possible to prevent meningitis in first place.
Meningitis can be of two types:
Bacterial origin and Viral origin
- Bacterial Meningitis: Peak age of incidence is less than 5 years; mostly seen in premature infants. Bacteria like S. Pneumoniae and tuberculous bacilli (Koch’s) can lead to Meningitis. Most of the organisms causing bacterial meningitis are commonly carried in our respiratory tract.
- Viral Meningitis: It includes polio virus, mumps virus, HIV, HSV (herpes virus). These pathogens usually gain access to meninges through the blood stream.
In some cases direct injury to spinal cord due to spinal trauma can also lead to Meningitis.
Signs And Symptoms Of Meningitis
In the beginning symptoms of meningitis are difficult to catch. This is because the signs and symptoms are subtle and mimic influenza or other bacterial infection. However, as the disease progresses the symptoms become more apparent. Below are given some of the characteristic symptoms of meningitis.
- Neck stiffness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased consciousness
- Fever with rigors and headache.
- Difficulty in walking due to pain in calf muscles.
How To Prevent Meningitis From Spreading?
Meningitis is caused due to bacteria or viruses. Both the organisms are infective. When the person’s immune system becomes weak, he may become susceptible to this condition. Sneezing, coughing, sharing contaminated utensils, cigarette smoking are some of the common risk factors for the spread of the disease.
Here are some of the simple preventive measures that a person can adopt to prevent the disease.
- Eat healthy food containing vitamins and all other nutrients. Exercise regularly and take 7 to 8 hours sleep at night. It helps to keep the immune system strong and protect the body from diseases, including meningitis.
- Follow basic hygiene practice. It is essential to protect the body against invading organisms. Wash your hands before eating food. Wash your hands with soap and water especially after each bowel movement or visiting the washroom.
- Avoid sharing toothbrush and other food items with anyone.
- To curtail the spread of viruses, especially when the person is suffering from upper respiratory tract infection, it is necessary for him to cover his mouth and nose with a handkerchief.
Vaccines That Prevent Meningitis
Vaccines are one of the most effective medical interventions ever devised. They have reduced the risk of diseases that previously attacked large population, caused many deaths or permanent disabilities. With newer DNA technology and molecular biology better vaccines are prepared.
- MMR vaccine, pnuemoccocal conjugate vaccine, Hib vaccines are effective in controlling the spread of epidemics.
- MMR vaccine is given to the child between the ages of 12 to 14 months. It protects the child form measles, mumps and rubella. Meningitis is one of the complications after measles.
- Hib (hemophilias influenza e B ) usually reduces incidences of invasive disease and is usually recommend it at age of 2, 3 and 4 months or as a single dose in previously not vaccinated children aged between 13 to 48 months.
- Adults and elderly individuals who are at risk of suffering from lower respiratory tract infections should take pneumococcal vaccine.