How would you know if you have meningitis ?

Hearing the word meningitis scares most people. We know that it is a serious disease, but do we really know what it is or what causes it?

Meningitis is a disease, caused by either a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. It causes an inflammation of the membranes, also called meninges that surround the brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of meningitis include:

  • Stiff neck with sudden onset
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Skin rash

There are several complications that can occur from meningitis. These include, seizures, hearing loss, difficulty remembering things, kidney failure and in severe cases, death.

In most cases in the United States the cause is due to a virus, which is the least severe form of the disease. It is spread by poor hygiene, or coming in contact with bodily fluids of someone who is infected, such as through kissing, sharing utensils, sneezing and coughing.

Viral Meningitis is the least severe and often it can get better on its own. The viruses that cause it are more prevalently found in summer and early fall. Bacterial meningitis is more severe and is caused when certain types of bacteria enter the blood and travel to the brain. Bacterial meningitis can also start as a sinus infection or an ear infection. Meningitis caused by a fungus is a rarer form and it usually affects people who are immunocompromised, like those with AIDS.

People who are at higher risk of getting meningitis are usually the people who haven’t been vaccinated against it. Children under five are at higher risk for viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis is more commonly seen in people under the age of 20. Other at great risk are people living in group settings like dormitories.

Treatment for meningitis is dependent on the cause. If it is bacterial, treatment will include antibiotics, for viral it may be mild and just treat the symptoms. If it is fungal it can be antifungal medications.

Keeping in mind that meningitis is contagious, it is best to seek appropriate medical care immediately. You should consult with your medical doctor or go to an emergency room to have the appropriate tests performed. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a physician at Flushing Hospital, please call 718-670-5486.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.