Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can occur when fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected.
Meningitis outbreak has killed about 282 people in Nigeria, the country’s Center for Disease Control said.The agency reported a wide outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis across 15 states.
A new strain of the disease called “stereotype C” has emerged, and there are not enough vaccines against it, the Center for Disease Control warned.
“There is a vaccine available,” Chief Executive Chikwe Ihekweazu said, “but it is not commercially available for the stereotype involved in this specific outbreak, and we have to make application to the World Health Organization for the vaccines.”
Nearly 2,000 suspected cases have been recorded and 109 have been treated since the outbreak began in February.
An emergency response team has been sent to the five states in the northwest of the country.
As one of the 26 countries on the African “meningitis belt,” Nigeria records some of the highest incidences of the disease on the continent.
The outbreaks peak in the dry season in certain states due to the low humidity and dusty conditions and usually end as the rainy season approaches, Ihekweazu added.
“Meningitis is a tough disease, especially during this period, and it is associated with overcrowding, understanding the living conditions in the country, people must keep their building ventilated,” he said.
According to the WHO, even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment begins, 5% to 10% of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Some common symptoms are stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.
Local and international organizations are working together to manage the epidemic. “We believe that our concerted efforts will bring this outbreak under control, as we also work towards preventing outbreaks of this scale in the future,” the Center for Disease Control stated.
→The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Other causes may include: cancer, chemical irritation, fungi, drug allergies.
Viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious. They can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact.
Types of Meningitis
Viral and bacterial infections are the most common causes of meningitis. There are several other forms of meningitis. Examples include cryptococcal, which is caused by a fungal infection, and carcinomatous, which is cancer-related. These types are rare.
Viral meningitis is the most common type of meningitis. Viruses in the Enterovirus category cause 85 percent of cases. These are more common during the summer and fall, and they include: coxsackievirus A, coxsackievirus B, echoviruses. Viruses in the Enterovirus category cause about 10 to 15 million infections per year, but only a small percentage of people who get infected will develop meningitis.
Other viruses can cause meningitis. These include: West Nile virus, influenza, mumps, HIV, measles herpes viruses, Coltivirus, which causes Colorado tick fever
Viral meningitis typically goes away without treatment.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious and caused by infection from certain bacteria. It’s fatal if left untreated. Between 5 to 40 percent of children and 20 to 50 percent of adults with this condition die. This is true even with proper treatment. The most common types of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis are:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is typically found in the respiratory tract, sinuses, and nasal cavity and can cause what’s called “pneumococcal meningitis”
- Neisseria meningitidis, which is spread through saliva and other respiratory fluids and causes what’s called “meningococcal meningitis”
- Haemophilus influenza, which can cause not only meningitis but infection of the blood, inflammation of the windpipe, cellulitis, and infectious arthritis
- Listeria monocytogenes, which is a foodborne borne.
The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be similar in the beginning. However, bacterial meningitis symptoms are usually more severe. The symptoms also vary depending on your age.
Viral Meningitis Symptoms in infants may cause:
- decreased appetite
- a fever
In adults, viral meningitis may cause:
- a fever
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to bright light
- decreased appetite
Bacterial meningitis symptoms develop suddenly. They may include:
- altered mental status
- a sensitivity to light
- a headache
- a fever
- a stiff neck
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms. Bacterial meningitis can be deadly. There’s no way to know if you have bacterial or viral meningitis just by judging how you feel. Your doctor will need to perform tests to determine which type you have.
- autoimmune disorders
- organ or bone marrow transplants
Cryptococcal meningitis, which is caused by a fungus, is the most common form of meningitis in people with HIV or AIDS.
Community Living Meningitis is easily spread when people live in close quarters. Being in small spaces increase the chance of exposure. Examples of these locations include:
- college dormitories
- boarding schools
- day care centers Pregnant women have an increased risk of listeriosis, which is an infection caused by the Listeriabacteria. Infection can spread to the unborn child. Age all ages are at risk for meningitis. However, certain age groups have a higher risk. Children under the age of 5 are at increased risk of viral meningitis. Infants are at higher risk of bacterial meningitis. Working with Animals Farm workers and others who work with animals have an increased risk of infection with Listeria. DIAGNOSIS
Diagnosing meningitis starts with a health history and physical exam. Age, dorm residence, and day care center attendance can be important clues. During the physical exam, your doctor will look for:
- a fever
- an increased heart rate
- neck stiffness
- reduced consciousness
Your doctor will also order a lumbar puncture. This test is also called a spinal tap. It allows your doctor to look for increased pressure in the central nervous system. It can also find inflammation or bacteria in the spinal fluid. This test can also help determine the best antibiotic for treatment.
Other tests may also be ordered to diagnose meningitis. Common tests include the following:
- Blood cultures identify bacteria in the blood. Bacteria can travel from the blood to the brain. N. meningitidis and S. pneumoniae can cause both sepsis and meningitis.
- A complete blood count with differential is a general index of health. It checks the number of red and white blood cells in your blood. White blood cells fight infection. The count is usually elevated in meningitis.
- Chest X-rays can reveal the presence of pneumonia, tuberculosis, or fungal infections. Meningitis can occur after pneumonia.
A CT scan of the head may show problems like a brain abscess or sinusitis. Bacteria can spread from the sinuses to the meninges.
Your treatment is determined by the cause of your meningitis.
Bacterial meningitis requires immediate hospitalization. Early diagnosis and treatment will prevent brain damage and death. Bacterial meningitis is treated with intravenous antibiotics. There’s no specific antibiotic for bacterial meningitis. It depends on the bacteria involved.
Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal agents.
Viral meningitis isn’t treated. It usually resolves on its own. Symptoms should go away within two weeks. There are no serious long-term problems associated with viral meningitis.
Common bacteria or viruses that can cause meningitis can spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing eating utensils, a toothbrush or a cigarette. These steps can help prevent meningitis:
- Wash your hands. Careful hand-washing helps prevent germs. Teach children to wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the toilet, spending time in a crowded public place or petting animals. Show them how to vigorously and thoroughly wash and rinse their hands.
- Practice good hygiene. Don’t share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else. Teach children and teens to avoid sharing these items too.
- Stay healthy. Maintain your immune system by getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Cover your mouth. When you need to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose.
If you’re pregnant, take care with food. Reduce your risk of listeriosis by cooking meat properly. Avoid cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Choose cheeses that are clearly labeled as being made with pasteurized milk.
Some forms of bacterial meningitis are preventable with the following vaccinations:
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine. Children in the United States routinely receive this vaccine as part of the recommended schedule of vaccines, starting at about 2 months of age. The vaccine is also recommended for some adults, including those who have sickle cell disease or AIDS and those who don’t have a spleen.
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). This vaccine also is part of the regular immunization schedule for children younger than 2 years in the United States. Additional doses are recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 5 who are at high risk of pneumococcal disease, including children who have chronic heart or lung disease or cancer.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Older children and adults who need protection from pneumococcal bacteria may receive this vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the PPSV vaccine for all adults older than 65, for younger adults and children age 2 and up who have weak immune systems or chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or sickle cell anemia, and for those who don’t have a spleen.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a single dose be given to children ages 11 to 12, with a booster shot given at age 16. If the vaccine is first given between ages 13 and 15, the booster shot is recommended between ages 16 and 18. If the first shot is given at age 16 or older, no booster is necessary.This vaccine can also be given to younger children who are at high risk of bacterial meningitis or who have been exposed to someone with the disease. It’s approved for use in children as young as 9 months old. It’s also used to vaccinate healthy but previously unvaccinated people who have been exposed in outbreaks.