World Meningitis Day: What is Meningitis?

Posted on April 24, 2018 by kerri

April 24 is World Meningitis Day. Meningitis comes in many forms—it can be spread by viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites and certain amebas. [1] It also can develop in non-infectious forms as a result of other situations including in those with cancer, lupus, in those on certain drugs, those who have sustained head injury, or people who have undergone brain surgery. [1] Meningitis is an infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. [2] In this post, we’ll focus on bacterial and viral meningitis, which may be more common or more preventable than other types.

red outline of brain

Viral vs. Bacterial Meningitis

Viral meningitis tends to be less severe than bacterial meningitis. Because antibiotics do not help with viruses, typically a person recovers from viral meningitis on their own. [1]

Bacterial meningitis is much more serious than viral meningitis, can be life threatening, and can result in long-term complications. Bacterial meningitis is more common than viral meningitis. [2] Children under the age of 2 are most likely to get bacterial meningitis. [2] Adults who are immunocompromised, abuse alcohol, have chronic nose or ear infections, have a head injury, acquire pneumococcal pneumonia, are being treated with corticosteroids for kidney disease, have sickle cell disease, or have had a splenectomy are also susceptible to bacterial meningitis.  [2]

Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics, which must be targeted for the correct bacteria present in the blood. After-effects of bacterial meningitis can be life-long.

Preventing Meningitis

Vaccination can prevent against certain types of bacterial meningitis [3]. Ensuring the correct vaccination schedule is followed is important to preventing meningitis. Maintaining good health and managing chronic illnesses as well as possible can also help prevent meningitis. [3]

As well, good hygiene is always important in preventing the spread of communicable diseases, including forms of bacterial and viral meningitis.

Managing after-effects of meningitis

Despite treatment, after-effects often result from having bacterial meningitis. These include [4]:

  • Clumsiness, coordination problems
  • Hearing or vision problems, including full deafness and/or blindness
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty with memory and attention/concentration
  • Epilepsy or seizures
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness, paralysis and muscle spasms.

Septicaemia is a blood infection that sometimes occurs with meningitis. It can cause many of the same after-effects, and others including skin, kidney and lung damage, and lead to limb amputations. [4]

Recovery and incidence of after-effects are extremely variable, and it is difficult to predict how bacterial meningitis will develop or respond to treatment, as well as in anticipating how recovery will progress . [4]

If you or your child have after-effects of meningitis, you may need to wear medical ID for the specific problems caused by the infection. This includes deaf-/hard-of-hearing medical ID jewelry, blind-/vision loss medical alert bracelets, seizure disorder medical ID, and multiple medications medical alert jewelry in the event lifelong medication could have potentially serious adverse reactions in an emergency.

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