Meningitis can have different causes and levels of severity. Stay aware of its main types and symptoms and stay alert.
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A meningitis results from inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord. It usually starts with an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. As a consequence, this disease can cause damage to the brain or spinal cord.
Approximately 70% of cases of meningitis occur in children under 5 years of age. The mortality associated with this disease is between 5% and 15%, while the sequelae resulting from this health problem, such as deafness and changes in psychomotor development, occur in approximately 25% of patients. Learn more about this disease.
Meningitis: symptoms, treatment and prevention
Meningitis can be caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Thus, it has different types of strains, which will lead to different frames of infection.
- viral meningitis: caused by viruses such as enteroviruses. They are more frequent and less serious.
- Bacterial meningitis: caused by bacteria such as Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Haemophilus influenzae type B. These infections are usually serious and can even prove to be lethal.
- Fungal meningitis: associated with the inhalation of fungi in the environment, diabetes, cancer, infection by the HIV/AIDS virus. This type of meningitis is rarer.
- Meningitis caused by parasites: most prevalent in less developed countries.
The first symptoms can be confused with the common symptoms of a the flu or a gastroenteritis. However, a case of meningitis evolves more quickly.
Thus, the initial symptoms of this disease can be: vomiting, nausea, muscle pain, fever, headache, cold extremities and rashes. These eruptions can evolve from small spots to bruises.
In the case of babies, there may also be crying, a more prominent fontanelle, difficulty waking up, flabby or very rigid limbs, refusal to eat, difficult breathing and rash.
In older children, neck stiffness, joint pain, drowsiness or confusion, photophobia, chills with cold extremities, and rash may occur.
Meningococcal meningitis has an incubation period that can range from 1 to 10 days, although it usually lasts no longer than 4 days.
Meningitis is contagious and can be transmitted through the respiratory tract and contaminated droplets or secretions from the nose and throat. For this reason, it is common for it to be transmitted in kindergartens, schools, universities or other places with a large concentration of people.
In this sense, compliance with respiratory etiquette, hand disinfectionof spaces ventilation and hygiene and cleaning procedures during food confection.
To make the diagnosis of meningitis, it is necessary to consult the doctor who will take into account the patient’s clinical history, his medical examination and the performance of some complementary tests. Among these tests may be blood tests and also lumbar puncture, which makes it possible to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid that exists under the meninges.
The treatment of meningitis will vary depending on the age of the patient, the severity of the disease, the cause of the pathology and the existence or not of other health problems.
If, in general, viral meningitis is treated quickly and without requiring specific therapy; bacterial meningitis may require hospitalization, antibiotics and supportive medications. This last type of meningitis carries the risk of generalized infection (sepsis), which is considered a medical emergency.
prevention of meningitis
In addition to the precautions indicated above to avoid the transmission of meningitis, another way to avoid meningitis is to take existing vaccines against the main strains of this disease. Some of them are free and are already part of the National Vaccination Program.