Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord. When the membranes become infected, they swell and press on the spine or brain. There are two distinct types of meningitis: viral (caused by a virus) or bacterial (caused by bacteria). In rare cases, it can also be caused by a fungus or tuberculosis. While viral meningitis is more common, bacterial meningitis is more serious, causing life-threatening problems.
Meningitis symptoms strike suddenly and worsen quickly. The most common symptoms are:
These are symptoms to look for in children:
While meningitis infections are uncommon, they can become fatal. These infections occur most often during the late winter and early spring months. Children are more commonly affected, but the illness also occurs in adolescents and adults. College freshmen living in dorms are also at risk. The Neisseria Meningitides bacteria, which leads to a meningitis infection, is spread through close contact with an infected person. Droplets in the air from a sneeze or close conversations can be inhaled and may cause infection.
It is important to know what causes meningitis. Several vaccines are currently available to prevent types of bacterial meningitis; these vaccines are recommended for infants and children. Treatment depends on the specific cause of the disease. Vaccination can prevent or minimize the incidence of meningitis. If you have questions regarding prevention, consult your healthcare provider and ask about vaccines that may protect you and yours from bacterial meningitis.
Visit your nearest St. Luke’s Health emergency department if you or your child displays any of the above symptoms.
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