Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord, is very serious disease because some patients can end up deaf or blind, and some may die.
Viral meningitis is generally less serious and clears up without any specific treatment.
However, bacterial meningitis can be quite serious and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, problems with learning and death.
The most important symptoms are high fever, headache, and stiff neck. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright light, confusion and sleepiness.
Small babies may be without fever, headache, and neck stiffness, and infants with meningitis may appear slow, inactive, have vomiting, be irritable, or be feeding poorly.
As the disease progresses, patients of any age may have seizures. Those symptoms can develop in several hours or they may take up to two days. So, the disease progresses very rapidly and that's why it is very dangerous.
Meningitis is most commonly diagnosed by laboratory tests of a spinal fluid. Early diagnosis is very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately.
It is important to know that some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious and the bacteria can be spread from person to person through coughing, kissing, and sneezing, but can't be spread by social contact.
There are several viruses that can cause viral meningitis, but in the most cases enteroviruses are to blame.
Most people who are infected with enteroviruses have no symptoms or they get a cold, rash, or mouth sores with low-grade fever and nothing else. Just a small number of people with enterovirus infections will develop meningitis.
Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread through contact with an infected person's stool.
The virus spreads among small children who are not yet toilet trained and it can spread to adults changing the diapers of an infected baby. All viruses can also be spread through contact with saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus.
This usually happens via kissing, shaking hands or by touching some thing of sick person. The viruses can live on surfaces for days and they can spread when infected person cough or sneeze and send the virus in the air you breathe.
For bacterial meningitis, it is important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from infecting other people.
Before the 1990s, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis but today Hib vaccine is given to all children.
In the case of viral meningitis, identifying the exact virus causing the disease may be very difficult. Since symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to those of bacterial meningitis, which can be deadly, it is important that a person with symptoms see the doctor as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for viral meningitis, but most patients will recover completely in two weeks.
Your doctor will recommend rest in bed, a lot of fluid, and medicine to relieve fever and headache. ■