There are several different types of meningitis with each of them designated by the cause of the illness. As the term meningitis describes a condition defined as the swelling of protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord meningitis that is not treated can be fatal.
With bacterial meningitis, death can occur in a very short period – within a few hours of contracting the disease. Also, cases of meningitis that are not treated early enough can lead to deafness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and brain damage.
Meningitis can also include cases of sepsis, which is a general infection that includes widespread or generalized infection that invades many vital systems. A widespread blood infection, for example, can attack various tissues and organs simultaneously.
There are at least five different bacteria types that can cause meningitis, including streptococcus pneumonia, Group B. Streptococcus, and Haemophilus influenza. Doctors need to identify which bacteria strain is causing the swelling so the correct antibiotic treatment can be deployed.
The age of the patient can also help doctors identify the strain of bacteria causing the illness. Newborns tend to become infected by different strains than babies and toddlers, teens, and young adults, or the elderly.
There are several risk factors involved in meningitis. While persons of any age contract meningitis, it is often considered a disease associated with infants. As bacteria can travel from host to host, meningitides is also associated with college-age young adults, as many people are living in dormitories in close quarters, which allows meningitis to spread. Various medical conditions and surgical procedures put people at a higher risk for meningitis. Other groups at risk include researchers and doctors who work with bacteria in laboratories and persons who travel to areas where meningitis is more prevalent.
How bacteria spreads
Bacteria often spread through direct contact with a host either from coming into contact with bodily fluids or having the bacteria travel through coughing and sneezing. Other bacteria go from host to host by intimate contact, especially when kissing. Eating contaminated food can also spread the illness. Also, improper hygiene (mostly unwashed hands) can cause the bacteria to travel either through bodily fluids or by contact with contaminated food.
Symptoms of Meningitis
The symptoms of meningitis can vary due to the patient’s age, although there is often overlap. The most striking problem here, however, is the prevalence of meningitis among infants, who are unable to tell anyone that something feels wrong.
Among infants, doctors will look for swelling of the soft spot in an infant’s skull called the fontanel. In older patients, the fontanel has become bony, so checking the fontanel is no longer possible.
Common symptoms are often consistent with other injuries. However, symptoms of meningitis can come very quickly. The symptoms include:
- Sore neck
- Trouble with vision or hearing loss
- Photophobia (sudden discomfort caused by light)
- Mood changes
- Loss of appetite
Meningitis needs to be treated as soon as possible or the condition can be fatal. As such, seeing a physician such as the San Diego internal medicine as soon as possible is critical. The doctor will then take blood samples or spinal cord fluid in order to have a laboratory identify the strain of bacteria involved. The best treatment starts with identifying the bacteria as soon as possible.