Bacterial Meningitis

June 09 23:22 2019 Print This Article

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges, and is caused by bacteria. Meningitis can occur at any age. Meningitis is similar in older children, adolescents, and adults but different in newborns and infants. Children at particular risk of meningitis include those with sickle cell disease and those lacking a spleen.

Children with congenital deformities of the face and skull may have defects in the bones that allow bacteria access to the meninges. Bacterial meningitis is caused by several different types of germs, which live naturally at the back of the nose and throat in one in ten people and can be spread by close prolonged contact, coughing, sneezing and kissing. Only in some do the germs overwhelm the body’s defences and cause meningitis. The bacteria cannot live long outside the body so cannot be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, buildings or factories and only certain types of bacteria (meningococcal C) spread more rapidly in crowded areas. Incubation for bacterial meningitis is between 2 and 10 days.

Viral meningitis is a less severe illness but can still be very debilitating, and very rarely, can progress through headache, fever and drowsiness to deep coma. The incubation period for viral meningitis can be up to 3 weeks. Bacterial meningitis can cause death within hours, so quick diagnosis and treatment is vital.

Meningitis is a viral. It’s means the cause is infection with a virus. Bacterial meningitis is quite rare but it can be very serious and needs urgent treatment with antibiotics. Meningitis is an infection of the tissues (meninges) and sometimes the fluid (cerebral spinal fluid, or CSF) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. When brain tissue swells, less blood and oxygen reach brain cells. Meningitis is most commonly caused by infection (by bacteria, viruses, or fungi), although it can also be caused by bleeding into the meninges, cancer, diseases of the immune system, and an inflammatory response to certain types of chemotherapy or other chemical agents.

Meningitis mostly present in kids age 5 and younger, and in between16 to 25 year olds, but people can get meningitis at any stage of life. Major bacteria that cause meningitis are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, staphylococcus and meningococcus. Meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae is known to occur in outbreaks, examples include outbreaks in dorms and military outbreaks. Community acquired cases of meningitis are usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, seen in elderly patients. Listeria monocytogenes and Neisseria meningitis are also other causes of community acquired meningitis.

Causes of Bacterial Meningitis

The bacteria that cause most cases of bacterial meningitis are normally present in our environment and can live in our noses and respiratory systems without causing any problems. However, this bacteria can infect the brain by spreading from an infection in a nearby part of the body, such as from a sinus infection, or can be carried to the brain by the blood. It can also enter the brain after a head injury, such as a skull fracture. People with bacterial meningitis are contagious anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on the type of bacteria that causes the infection.

  • It is caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Living in proximity to others, such as dormitories and military barracks (for meningitis due to Neisseria meningitidis).
  • Smoking (for meningitis due to Neisseria meningitidis).
  • A weakened immune system due to HIV infection or other conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis

Early symptoms of bacterial meningitis include high fever, headache, chills, and stiff neck. The neck is so stiff that the patient cannot lower the chin to the chest. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, and sleepiness. In advanced disease, bruises develop under the skin and spread quickly. In newborns and infants, the typical symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be hard to detect. Other signs in babies might be inactivity, irritability, vomiting, and poor feeding. As the disease progresses, patients of any age can have seizures.

  • Headache.
  • Seizures.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • High fever and chills.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Irritability.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Sensitivity to light.

Treatment for Bacterial Meningitis

Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor right away. Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, however, that treatment be started early. Do not share food, drinks, utensils, toothbrushes, or cigarettes. Limit the number of persons you kiss. Vaccines against pneumococcal disease are recommended both for young children and adults over 64. A vaccine against four meningococcal serogroups (A, C, Y, W-135) is available. These four groups cause the majority of meningococcal cases in the United States. This vaccine is recommended by some groups for college students, particularly freshmen living in dorms or residence halls. The vaccine is safe and effective (85-90%). It can cause mild side effects, such as redness and pain at the injection site lasting up to two days. Immunity develops within 7 to 10 days after the vaccine is given and lasts for up to 5 years.

  • Antibiotics will be prescribed for bacterial meningitis; the type will vary depending on the infecting organism.
  • Steroids may also be used to treat bacterial meningitis. Steroids tend to reduce inflammation and swelling, lessening possible harm to brain cells.
  • It can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Penicillin and cephalosporins are commonly used. Special methods are necessary for giving these drugs, however, because of the blood-brain barrier.
  • Hospitalization may be required depending on the severity of the illness and the needed treatment.