The meninges are the protective membranes that surround that your brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is the disease you get when the meninges become inflamed.
Meningitis can be caused by an infection due to different types of microorganisms, usually bacteria or viruses. Less commonly it can also be caused by fungal and parasitic infections, as well as by non-infectious causes such as cancer. Although bacterial meningitis,also known as meningococcal meningitis, is less common than viral meningitis, it is more severe. If left untreated it is fatal in about half of all cases. It can lead to blood poisoning, also known as septicaemia. Therefore it is important to be aware of the symptoms on bacterial meningitis in order to receive early treatment, and how to prevent further transmission.
You can get meningitis at any age, but the most at risk group are babies and under-fives, and so extra attention should be paid to look out for displays of symptoms in them. A purple rash is a distinctive feature of meningitis, but not everyone who gets meningitis will get a rash. Therefore it is very important to be aware of all of the symptoms of meningitis. Other symptoms include: a severe headache, a stiff neck, vomiting, a high fever with cold hands and feet, seizures, a tense bulging soft spot on the head, and greater sensitivity to light.The glass test involves firmly pressing the side of a glass against the skin. If the rash does not fade under pressure then this is a possible indication of meningococcal septicaemia.
Treatment in hospital is required for bacterial meningitis. Antibiotics will be given to fight off the bacteria causing the infection. Other medicines can be given to help decrease any swelling around the brain.There are many different potential complications, such as loss of hearing and sight. These will also require treatment.
Meningitis caused by microorganisms is infectious and can be spread from person-to-person by coughing and sneezing, therefore good personal hygiene, such as regular hand washing with soap, is important to reduce the risk of getting meningitis. Antibiotics can be used to prevent bacterial meningitis in the short-term. Because antibiotics only work against bacteria, they are ineffective against other types of meningitis.
Different types of bacteria are more common causes in different parts of the world. For example,Neisseria meningitides group A bacteria are responsible for the large numbers of cases in the African meningitis belt. This is a strip across sub-Saharan Africa, from Gambia in the east to Ethiopia in the West, where there are often epidemics in the dry season. There are a number of different vaccinations available for the different types of meningitis. A vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type B is included in many countries childhood vaccination schedule.