What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the brain and spinal cord. It particularly affects the delicate meninges of the brain – the membrane that covers brain and spinal cord. Anyone can get infected by meningitis, especially the children.

Meningitis is of different types: viral, bacterial and fungal.

Bacterial meningitis is very severe, whereas viral meningitis is not that much severe as many individuals infected with it can recover very fast and the infection resolves on its own without requiring any medical intervention.

Another type of meningitis is caused by fungus, which is very rare though. This rare form of infection usually develops in persons who are very weak and have compromised immune system (AIDS and HIV infected persons).

What Causes Meningitis?what is meningitis

As discussed above, meningitis – in many cases is caused by either bacterial or viral infections. The focal point of infection may not always be spinal cord or brain because the infection can emerge from other locations in the body, such as throat, sinuses or ears and then spreads to spinal cord or brain. Apart from the bacterial and viral infections, meningitis may also develop due to the following less common causes: autoimmune disorders, tuberculosis, syphilis, cancer medications and fungal infections.

Bacterial Meningitis

The more serious & complicated type of meningitis is bacterial. Without proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, bacterial meningitis may become immensely severe and life-threatening as it could lead to brain damage. Therefore, a child who may be suspected of having meningitis must be given instant medical help – or else his life would be in danger.

Bacterial meningitis may result, in most of the cases, when the bacteria make their way into the bloodstream from the throat, ears or sinuses and then carried by the blood up to the brain, and then infect the brain. Infected persons can spread the infection to others when they come in close contact with healthy persons and then sneeze or cough forcefully without covering their cough or sneeze.

Different types of bacteria can cause meningitis – but the common ones include, meningococcus, pneumococcus, and haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria – causative agent of meningitis in infants and children.

Who is at risk of getting meningitis?

Infants, young children under age 5, young adults between 16 to 25 years and teenagers and the elderly persons are more likely to get infected with meningitis. In addition, individuals with chronic illness, long-term illness, immune system disorders, AIDs patients and other chronic health conditions are also at risk.

How to prevent meningitis?

Meningitis can spread between persons who live very closely and share their personal items. The germs can spread through coughing and sneezing, and therefore, it is better to avoid people who are suspected of having meningitis. It is also possible for the outbreaks to result in areas where the disease is prevalent and people live in close contact with each other – such places may include schools, colleges, public places and other such gatherings. In addition, those who travel to areas where meningitis is prevalent may get infected with the meningitis germs.