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Microbial Disease Awareness: Bacterial Meningitis

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Meningitis can affect people of all ages; however, infants at 6-18 months of age are at an increased risk for developing bacterial meningitis. Elderly people are also at risk due to their decline in immune functions, as well as people with illnesses which affects their immune system.

People of all ages should be aware of the potential dangers of this disease, as it can strike quickly and can be deadly. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the three layers of protective tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. The two most common types of meningitis are viral and bacterial meningitis. Other types of meningitis are fungal, parasitic and non-infectious meningitis that are more rare to contract. Meningitis can occur when bacteria enters your bloodstream. It then travels to the brain and spinal cord and starts an infection, which leads to a buildup of fluid surrounding the meninges. According to Florida Hospital, bacterial meningitis affects over 4,000 people and causes 500 deaths in the U.S. each year. Although meningitis can occur all year round, cases in Hawaii mostly occurs during summer and fall. Since meningitis can come on quickly, it is important to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms. They include:

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  • A sudden onset of severe headache
  • Fever and stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seizures Vomiting Muscles and joint pain
  • Skin Rash.

Some people may notice rash surrounding their body and often use the “glass” method to determine if meningitis is the cause. The person is instructed to place a clear glass over the rash. Should the rash not fade in the affected area when the glass is not removed, then there is a good chance that person has contracted meningitis. There are several different types of Bacterial meningitis that can live in your body and the environment we’re around, such as: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitis, and Haemophilus influenzae. When you get into close contact with an infectious person, it can lead into your bloodstream and spinal cord if they sneeze or cough. Kissing can also form an infection if that person throat or saliva contain bacteria. Not all bacteria that cause meningitis can be caused from an infectious person, but can also be caused by the food you eat that has Listeria bacterium, like soft cheeses, hot dogs, and sandwich meat.

DOH provides the following recommendations to prevent meningitis:

  • Antibiotics
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Maintaining good personal hygiene (washing hands regularly)
  • Getting vaccinated
  • Boosting immune system.

Meningitis can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids, which will help with recovery and reduce risks of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures. Draining any infected sinuses or mastoids may help, but the treatment depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection. If you are experiencing symptoms of meningitis, seek medical care immediately. If meningitis is caught early in its stage, a person can recover fully with no lingering effects. Understanding the causes of meningitis and how it spreads will help you stay healthy and keep you from experiencing this life-threatening disease.

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