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What is meningitis?

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  • There are five types of meningitis, namely viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis, parasitic meningitis, fungal meningitis and non-infectious meningitis, each being different from the other because of the agent that causes the illness
  • To see if you or someone you know has meningitis or not, watch out for these common symptoms among various types of meningitis, then consult a physician immediately
 

What Is Meningitis?

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Meningitis occurs when there is an inflammation of the meninges, or the membranes that envelope your brain and spinal cord. There are three membranes that make up the meninges: the dura meter, arachnoid meter and pia meter.

Along with the cerebrospinal fluid, a clear and colorless fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain,1 the meninges play a significant role in protecting your central nervous system.2

There are five types of meningitis, each being different from the other because of the agent that causes the illness. These are:3

  • Viral meningitis
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Parasitic meningitis
  • Fungal meningitis
  • Non-infectious meningitis

People Who Are at Risk of Meningitis

There are groups of people who have a higher risk of being affected with any type of meningitis, and they are:4

Young children and adolescents: although adults can have meningitis as well, this illness typically targets young people. Children lower than 5 years old often get sick with viral meningitis, while bacterial meningitis affects adolescents and teenagers lower than 20 years old.

People who live in a community setting: two types of meningitis (bacterial and viral) are known to be contagious,5,6 with the virus or bacteria spreading via the “respiratory route” and quickly among large groups.

Children in boarding schools or child care facilities, college students in dormitories and service men and women in military bases are people who are considered to be most prone to meningitis.

Pregnant women: these women are at high risk of being infected with listeria bacteria that could trigger meningitis or listeriosis, an infection that occurs when you eat food contaminated with the said bacteria.7

Listeria also has the potential to increase a pregnant woman’s risk for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery.

Weakened immune system: a weak immune system can arise because of illnesses such as diabetes and AIDS, medical procedures such as spleen removal, using immunosuppressant drugs or alcoholism. When your immune system is significantly impaired, meningitis risk goes up as well.

Signs That You Have Meningitis

To learn if you or someone you know has meningitis, watch out for these common symptoms:8

Meningitis rash (these start off as small, red pinpricks then develop into red or purple blotches)

High-temperature fever at 37.5 degrees Celsius or 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit

Headaches

Feeling and being sick, irritability and lack of energy

Quick breathing

Painful muscles and joints

Stiff neck

Confusion

Cold hands and feet

Pale and mottled skin

Drowsiness

Fits (seizures)

On the other hand, since babies could also be affected with meningitis, here are signs of infant meningitis that you should look out for:

Refusing feeds

Refusing to be picked up, as well as agitation

Bulging fontanelle, or the soft spot on the head

Being floppy or unresponsive

Stiff body

Unusual, high-pitched cry

No Better Time to Be Checked for Meningitis Than Now

If these symptoms manifest in you or someone you know, consult a physician immediately. Knowing the type of meningitis that affects a patient and determining the most ideal treatment protocol is very important. This is because meningitis could lead to further complications, such as:9

  • Seizures
  • Hearing loss
  • Brain damage
  • Hydrocephalus, a condition where there is a fluid buildup in the skull, resulting in a swelling of the brain10
  • A subdural effusion, or buildup of fluid between the brain and the skull

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Meningitis: Introduction

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Meningitis in Children

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