Communicable Diseases
 Meningitis

Overview:
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord,and can affect anyone.
  • Most cases of meningitis transmitted through the secretions of the respiratory system.
  • The onset of symptoms is similar to influenza, and exacerbates during a short period.
  • There is no cure for viruses, treatment is based on supplying the body with fluids.
  • Vaccination is one of the most important ways to prevent the disease. 

Defining the disease:
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord. The swelling from meningitis typically triggers symptoms such as headache, fever and a stiff neck. It can affect anyone, but most common in young persons from birth to adulthood, as well as the elderly. 

Types of Meningitis:

Bacterial meningitis: Each age group is infected by diffident type of bacteria, it is contagious and life-threatening.

Viral meningitis: It is the most common type of meningitis, more common at the end of summer and early fall, and it is contagious and usually mild and quickly disappears.

Chronic meningitis: It spreads between people if it is bacterial.

Other types: fungal meningitis, parasitic meningitis and chemical meningitis. ​​

Causes: 
The spread of bacteria (meningococcal bacteria of all kinds, pneumococcal bacteria, haemophilus influenzae bacteria) or viruses (intestinal virus, mumps virus, or herpes simplex virus) that cause the disease.

Method of Transmission:
Most types of meningitis are transmitted through respiratory secretions through the following ways:
  • ​​Sneezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Kissing.
  • Sharing cups, toothbrushes, cigarettes and others.
  • ​Bacterial meningitis: Usually is transmitted from people with bacteria in the throat or nose and is rarely transmitted from infected people.
  • Fungal meningitis: It is acquired from environment (such as: inhaling soil contaminated with birds or bats droppings) and it is not transmitted from person to person.
  • Parasitic meningitis: It is acquired from environmental sources (such as rodents including mice and raccoons).

Risk Factors:
  • ​Skipping vaccinations.
  • Age: Most cases of viral meningitis occur in children younger than age 5. Bacterial meningitis is common in those under age 20.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Weak immunity as a result of AIDS, diabetes or spleen removal and others.
  • Living in a community setting (such as compounds or military bases) as infection spreads quickly through large groups.
  • Travelling to infected areas like the African meningitis belt countries.
  • Be in contact with infected persons.
  • Be in contact with infected pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah season. 
    Symptoms: 
Early meningitis symptoms may mimic the flu (influenza). Symptoms may develop over several hours or over a few days.
Symptoms in anyone older than the age of 2 include:
  • ​Sudden high fever.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Severe headache with nausea and vomiting.
  • Skin rash.
  • Seizures.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking.
  • Sensitivity to light.
 Newborns and infants may show these signs:
  • ​High fever.
  • Inactivity or sluggishness.
  • A bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby's head (fontanel).
  • Stiffness in a baby's body and neck.
  • Poor feeding.
  • Frenzy and refusal to be hold by others.
  • Constant crying.
  • Seizures.
  • Skin rash in some cases. 
Bacterial meningitis is an emergency that requires immediate medical care.

When to see a doctor?
  • Seek immediate medical care if you or someone in your family or even your colleague has meningitis symptoms, you may need to get vaccine to prevent infection. 
Complications:
If not treated quickly, meningitis can cause life-threatening blood poisoning and resulting in permanent damage to the brain or nerves, the most common complications include:
  • ​Death.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Memory and concentration difficulty.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Gait problems.
  • Seizures.
  • Kidney problems. 
    Diagnosis:
  • ​Medical history.
  • Clinical examination.
  • Laboratory tests: blood culture, spinal tap (lumbar puncture).
  • CT scan.
Treatment: 
The treatment depends on the type of meningitis:
  • ​Viral meningitis: It cannot be treated with antibiotics, usually disappears without medical intervention through resting, drinking fluids and using painkillers. Doctor may prescribe steroids to relieve swelling of the brain membranes or anti-epileptic medications to control seizures.
  • Bacterial meningitis: It can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and drugs vary according to the type of bacteria. 
The doctor may suck fluids, in addition to other treatments including:
  • ​Supplying fluids through veins to avoid dehydration.
  • He may use antivirals (treatment depends on body's resistance), and antifungals as per the cause of meningitis. 

Prevention: 
  • ​Vaccination against bacterial meningitis.
  • Washing hands properly.
  • Maintain good hygiene, don't share cups, toothbrushes and other things with anyone else.
  • Improve your immune system by following healthy behaviors such as eating healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  • When you need to sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose.
  • Provide preventive treatment for those coming from infected areas or have been in contact with meningitis patients. 
    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
  • Is it safe to vaccinate pregnant woman against meningitis at the first weeks of her pregnancy?
There is no data on this matter. It is advised not to vaccinate the pregnant women and compensate for this by taking preventive treatment when going to infected areas or Hajj and Umrah.
  • Is there any link between smoking and meningitis?
There is no direct relationship between them, however pneumonitis caused by smoking may develop to meningitis.  

Misconceptions:
  • Meningitis is a mild form of disease?
Fact: Although it is not life-threatening, meningitis can cause permanent problems such as headaches and memory loss.
  • Meningitis cannot be treated.
Fact: There is no cure for viruses, treatment is based on supplying the body with fluids.
  • Only newborns get meningitis.
Fact; No, it can affect anyone.
  • ​Babies with meningitis are not advised to get vaccine. 
Fact: No, for several reasons:
  1. ​There are many types and causes of meningitis, as well as many vaccines (including three types in the vaccination table in the Kingdom), having one type does not prevent infection with the other.
  2. The same type of meningitis can occur again as there is no natural immunity (i.e. the after-effect immunity lasts for only few years). 









 
 
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