Meningitis, is an infection and can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment differ with the cause.
Bacteria that cause meningitis are spread with direct contact with secretions of an infected person. Secretions include:
· Nasal mucus
Spread of meningitis can therefore occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes in someone’s face, through kissing, or by sharing personal items such as eating utensils, cups, water bottles, or lip balm, or lipstick.
What are the common symptoms of meningitis?
The most common symptoms of meningitis include:
· Sudden onset fever and chills
· Sudden onset of severe headache
· Stiff neck
· Photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to light)
· Altered mental status (confusion)
Infants and young children may be sleepy, irritable and feed poorly. It can take from two to 10 days from the time of exposure until symptoms develop. The best way to prevent spreading is to complete the recommended vaccine schedule. You can also practice prevention by not sharing personal items and to wash hands frequently, especially before eating.
What is Meningococcal Meningitis?
Meningococcal Meningitis, is an infection that causes swelling and irritation in the brain and spinal cord. Most cases occur in kids and teens, and occur most often in winter or spring. This strain of meningitis is not spread by casual contact. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known as meninges, become infected and swell. The symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck
A vaccine is available and recommended for all 11-18 year olds, but adolescents and young adults 16-21 have higher rates of meningococcal disease. Infants are also at higher risk. College students, especially first year college students living in residence halls are at an increased risk, compared to other people the same age group.
Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Neisseria Meningitidis, or meningococcus. As mentioned, the bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit, but can also be exchanged by living in close quarter, kissing, etc. The infection is not as contagious as the common cold however.
How do you prevent meningitis?
Early diagnosis and treatment of meningitis are very important, as the sooner the infection is identified, the sooner you can begin treatment. Unfortunately, available vaccines do not cover all strains. Here are some tips on preventing the spread of meningitis:
1. Be alert if someone you know is diagnosed
2. Take antibiotics if someone close to you is diagnosed
3. Use good hygiene habits
4. Get vaccinated