Meningitis is a very serious and potentially life-threatening infection that can affect anyone, of any age. Every year, World Meningitis Day is held on October 5th to create awareness about this global health issue and to provide support and education about symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, although the most common type of meningitis is caused by bacteria. Viral meningitis is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis, but both types can be deadly if not treated promptly.
Symptoms of Meningitis
Symptoms of meningitis vary depending on the type of meningitis and the age of the person infected. In adults, common symptoms include a severe headache that won’t go away, a stiff neck, a fever, nausea and vomiting, confusion or difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light, and sleepiness or exhaustion. In babies and young children, signs may include fever, vomiting, irritability, poor feeding or drinking, unusual crying, a vacant stare, spasms of the neck or body, convulsions or seizures.
Common causes of Meningitis
The most common causes of bacterial meningitis are the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (which causes meningococcal meningitis) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (which causes pneumococcal meningitis). Risk factors for developing meningitis include having a weakened immune system due to HIV or other conditions; being exposed to someone with meningitis; living in crowded areas; or having recently used antibiotics.
Treatments for Meningitis
Treatment for meningitis depends on the type of infection. Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics, while viral meningitis is treated with antiviral medications. In some cases of viral meningitis, supportive care such as fluids and rest may be enough. In serious cases, hospitalization may be required.
Meningitis can be prevented through immunization. Vaccines are available for some types of bacterial meningitis as well as for certain viruses that can cause viral meningitis. It is important to get vaccinated against these diseases and keep up-to-date on recommended immunizations throughout life.