Dr Ammara Batool.(MBBS) Meningitis is a major cause of child mortality in Pakistan where 5% of all under five years of age child deaths are due to meningitis.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a term used to describe an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or the spinal cord. Meningitis, especially bacterial meningitis, is a potentially life threatening condition that can rapidly progress to permanent brain damage, neurologic problems, and even death.
What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis?
The above symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all.
What types of meningitis are prevalent?
Ans: There are two types of meningitis. They are:
• Bacterial meningitis – caused by bacteria. Or through close contact. • Viral meningitis – caused by viruses that can be spread through coughing, sneezing and poor hygiene
Bacterial meningitis: Bacterial meningitis is very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency. If the bacterial infection is left untreated, it can cause severe brain damage and infect the blood. The number of cases has dropped since the introduction of vaccines that protect against many of the bacteria that can cause meningitis. Bacterial meningitis most commonly affects children under five years of age, particularly babies under the age of one. It’s also common among teenagers aged 15 to 19.
Viral meningitis: Viral meningitis is the most common, and less serious, type of meningitis. It’s difficult to estimate the number of viral meningitis cases, because symptoms are often so mild that they’re mistaken for flu. Viral meningitis is most common in children and more widespread during the summer.
How is meningitis diagnosed?
Ans: Diagnosing meningitis can be difficult because it often comes on quickly and can be easily mistaken for flu, as many of the symptoms are the same. However, it’s very important to seek immediate medical help if you notice any of the symptoms of meningitis, particularly in a young child.
How is meningitis treated?
Ans: Viral meningitis usually gets better within a couple of weeks, with plenty of rest, painkillers for the headache and anti-sickness medication for the vomiting. Bacterial meningitis is treated with intravenous antibiotics. Admission to hospital will be needed, with severe cases so the body’s vital functions can be monitored and supported. If antibiotics don’t work, you will need to be in hospital for a week or less.
Early diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is essential to prevent permanent neurological damage. Viral meningitis is usually not serious, and symptoms should disappear within two weeks with no lasting complications.
Several decades ago, the outlook for bacterial meningitis wasn’t good, and almost everyone who had the condition would die. The best way to prevent meningitis is by ensuring vaccinations are up-to-date. Up to a quarter of people may experience complications of meningitis, such as hearing loss, after having bacterial meningitis.