Meningitis: Know the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

What You Must Know About Meningitis

Meningitis, a very uncommon name for many, may turn into a life-threatening disease. If not treated on time can lead to fatality.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Meningitis can be caused by fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. Meningitis can be acute, with a quick onset of symptoms, it can be chronic, lasting a month or more, or it can be aseptic or mild. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis should immediately consult a medical expert.

Population affected by meningitis

Approximately 2,600 sporadic cases of Bacterial Meningitis are reported each year in the United States. Meningitis caused by pneumococcal infections affects about 1.1 in 100,000 individuals. About seventy percent of all Bacterial Meningitis occurs in children aged five and under. Children within the age of 2 are at higher risk for infection. It is also seen that males are affected more often than females. Bacterial Meningitis occurs most often during the first month of a newborn’s life and is usually caused by gram-negative bacteria such as group B streptococcus or by Escherichia coli. Bacterial meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria occurs most frequently in adults, but there are an estimated 1,400 cases of pneumococcal meningitis in children under the age of five per year.

Spread of meningitis

This depends on the type of meningitis and the specific organism. Classic community-acquired acute bacterial meningitis spreads from person to person, usually from saliva (spit) or respiratory droplets. Group B Streptococcus spreads over the vaginal delivery from mother to baby. Listeria monocytogenes is acquired from contaminated food. Herpes and varicella are acquired individually and can reactivate several years after infection. Mosquitoes transmit various encephalitis viruses. Fungal meningitis is usually obtained from airborne respiration of fungal spores.

Symptoms of Meningitis

Some of the meningitis symptoms may include:

1. Numbness in your face

2. Fever

3. Headache

4. Confusion

5. Sensitivity to light(Photophobia)

6. Stiff neck

7. Upset stomach or vomiting

8. Nausea

For babies, the symptoms are a bit different, as it is difficult to notice the symptoms as mentioned above in them. Babies may become:

1.Inactive or may become slow

2.Remain irritated all the time


4.Feed poorly

5.Abnormal reflexes

Diagnosis of meningitis

The key diagnostic test for evaluating meningitis is a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This test extracts a sample of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord to analyze whether bacterial, viral, or fungal is the cause of meningitis. Brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI, may also help doctors detect whether there is brain inflammation. If a doctor suspects meningitis, samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid close to the spinal cord) are collected. A laboratory will be testing the samples to see what causes the infection. It is essential to know the specific cause of meningitis, so the doctors know how to treat it.

Treatment for meningitis

Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. It requires urgent treatment with antibiotic injections. Doctors may conduct blood tests, and a sample of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord (a lumbar puncture) will also be tested. Depending on the diagnostic results, the antibiotic may be altered. Most people recover from bacterial meningitis, but some individuals may develop permanent complications, such as hearing loss, brain damage, learning disabilities and memory problems as a result of the infection, as per the CDC(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). At first, intensive care is often needed because the infection often causes shock and body-wide problems. Fluids are likely to be administered directly into the veins (a drip).

Viral meningitis

When the cause of the meningitis is not known, antibiotics may be given at first. If the cause of the meningitis is found to be viral, the antibiotics will stop. Antibiotics do not inactivate the viruses. The immune system of the body usually clears most viral infections. There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis other than rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Most people with the mild form of the viral infection recover within 7 to 10 days. Vaccines can protect against some diseases, such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, and influenza, which can lead to viral meningitis.

There are vaccines available for preventing meningitis, and one should consult a medical practitioner to know the appropriate vaccine for the right age-group. If you know someone who is dealing with this condition, then do provide them with care and support in every way you can. Immediately seek medical help if you feel the symptoms are worsening. PatientMD is there to provide round the clock medical assistance through our telemedicine services. Browse PatientMD now to reserve your preferred day and time for scheduling a teleconsultation or an in-person visit with our renowned medical experts.