Meningitis What you need to know about
April 24, 2021 | Sara Shoukat Ali

Meningitis What you need to know about

Meningitis is the Inflammation of meninges the membranes cover and protect brain and spinal cord from pressure or injury. Meningitis fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected. Infection may be bacterial or viral or fungal or parasitic or due to some other reasons. Symptoms and sign vary and depend upon the causative agents. Most common symptoms are fever, headache and neck stiffness. Some of the meningitis cases are improved through treatment whereas other cases may become life threatening and need emergency medical treatments. Meningitis can be prevented by vaccination and treated by using antibiotics. Mortality rate of bacterial meningitis is higher than other type of meningitis. According to a report overall mortality rate of bacterial meningitis is 21% than the other meningitis.

Sign and symptoms:  

Early signs and symptoms may be flu like. Signs develop over several hours or few days and vary in different age groups.

In old age people

·       Severe headache

·       Sudden fever

·       Stiffness in neck

·       Nausea and vomiting

·       Seizures

·       Confusion or difficulty in focus

·       Difficulty in waking or sleepiness

·       No thirst or hunger

·       Photosensitivity

·       Rashes on skin

In new born babies or infants

·       High fever

·       Sleepiness

·       Vomiting

·       Poor feeding

·       Constant crying

·       Sluggishness

·       Poor feeding

·       Stiffness in neck and body

·       Not waking to eat

·       A bulge in fontanel(soft bone in head)

What are causes of meningitis?

Meningitis is caused by bacteria or viruses commonly and rarely by fungus, parasite or other one. Most commonly meningitis is viral meningitis.

·       Bacterial meningitis: it occurs when bacteria invade directly in meninges or blood stream via travel to brain and spinal cord. It may be caused by sinus or ear infection or due to skull fractures or injury.  Several bacterial strains are responsible for meningitis following are most commonly bacterial meningitis:

o   Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus): most common cause of bacterial meningitis is penumococcus strain. In United States this is commonly infect new born, young children and adults. Vaccination can prevent this infection.

o   Neisseria meningitides(meningococcus): this bacterial strain most commonly attack upper respiratory track and also causes meningococcal meningitis. It is highly contagious that affects teenagers and adults. Infection is only prevented by vaccination that is available in market. Instead of vaccination, oral antibiotics are also given to those individual who are in close contact to meningococcal meningitis individuals.

o   Listeria monocytogenes (listeria): this bacterial strain commonly present in unpasteurized cheese, meats and hot dogs. The individuals with weak immune system, new born, pregnant women and older age individuals are mostly susceptible to this bacterial strain. This bacterium can cross the placenta and cause infection in late pregnancy and may be fatal to fetus.

o   Haemophilus influenzae (haemophilus):  it is one of the causes of meningitis in children. Vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacterium highly decrease the number of meningitis cases.


·       Viral meningitis: it is usually mild and mostly caused by enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus, mumps, HIV, West Nile virus and other. In United States most common viral meningitis is caused by enteroviruses.

·       Fungal meningitis: it may mimic the acute bacterial meningitis, relatively uncommon in United States and not contagious. It's regularly shrunk by inhaling in fungal spores that might be found in soil, rotting wood and bird’s excreta. The most common fungal meningitis is Cryptococcal meningitis that infects individuals with weak immune systems such as AIDS. If it is not treated properly it may become life threatening.

·       Parasitic meningitis:  it is rare type of meningitis and cause eosinophilic meningitis. It is most commonly caused by tape worm infection in brain or cerebral malaria. Amoebic meningitis is rarely present and sometimes contracted by swimming in fresh water and quickly become life-threatening. Usually people get infected by eating parasitic contaminated food. It is not contagious from person to person.

·       Other meningitis causes: other factors such as drug allergies, chemical reactions, certain types of cancer and inflammatory diseases i.e. sarcoidosis may cause meningitis.

Complications: meningitis may be become severe it results into long lasting complications for lifetime especially in children. Some of them are:

·       Hearing loss and vision loss

·       Difficulty in memory

·       Poor cognitive behavior

·       Problems in balance, coordination and movement

·       Neurological damage

·       Seizures

·       Kidney failure

·       Shock

·       Death

Risk factors: following are some risk factors that may increases the risk of meningitis in people:

·       Skipping vaccination

·       Compromised immune system

·       mostly children of five years or less

·       pregnancy in  women increase the risk of listeriosis

In which ways meningitis is prevented?

Commonly meningitis is spread in people through coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, sharing tooth brush or cigarette or having close contact with each other.

·       Wash hands properly before and after taking meal, after using toilet, spending time with pets or in crowded or public places. Also teach children to wash their hands properly and carefully to prevent the spread of germs.

·       Practice good hygiene doesn’t share drinks, water bottles, tooth picks, straws, tooth brush, eating utensils, lip blames to anyone. Teach your children not to share these items with others.

·       Maintenance of health maintain your health by taking proper balanced diet, taking exercise, getting enough rest and adopting stress releasing activities.

·       Covering mouth it is necessary to cover your mouth during coughing and sneezing

·       Properly cooked food it is necessary to take properly cooked meal and fully pasteurized milk and milk products such as cheese.

Vaccinations: some vaccines are available that prevent from bacterial meningitis:-

·      Meningococcal conjugate vaccine

·      Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

·      Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

·      Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)

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Sara Shoukat Ali

MS in molecular biology & currently working in Queen Mary College as a lecturer