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Health A to Z

All You Need To Know About Meningitis

Dr. Pragnya Rao

It is a rare infection that affects the delicate membranes that cover the brain & spinal cord.

While most of us have heard the name of this condition, not all of us know exactly what it is. Meningitis is an infection and subsequent inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. It is this inflammation that causes the early symptoms like, stiffness in the neck and severe headache. 

In order to get a clearer view of this disease, we have compiled a list of facts about this illness that you may not be aware of.

There are multiple causes of meningitis

There are many organisms that can infect and cause meningitis. It is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection. However, there are also fungal, parasitic and non-infective varieties of this condition. The most common cause of meningitis are bacteria like Group B streptococcus, Neisseria meningitis (also known as meningococcus), Streptococcus pneumoniae, (also known as pneumococcus), and Listeria monocytogenes.

Different people are at different kinds of risk

There are several factors that decide the risk of a person towards meningitis such as proximity to pre-existing patients, injuries to the skull or head, the strength of one’s immunity, and the absence of the spleen. Added to these different kinds of meningitis pose risks to different kinds of people. For example-

  • Newborn babies are at a greater risk of getting infected by group B streptococcus meningitis
  • Adults, on the other hand, are at risk from meningococcal meningitis
  • Pregnant women and the older generation are more predisposed to listeria meningitis

It can lead to permanent damage

Severe cases of this condition can lead to permanent damage such as loss of hearing, brain damage, issues with cognition, recurrent seizures and the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in spaces around the brain. In certain cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body necessitating the amputation of limbs. 

Precautions to stay safe from infection

The silver lining here is that the microorganisms that cause meningitis are not as infectious as viruses that cause flu or the common cold. Following some simple precautions can help you stay safe from this condition-

  • Wash your hands before every meal
  • Do not share personal belongings like toothbrushes, towels, and clothes
  • Make sure that all the dairy products are pasteurized 
  • Practice basic hygiene while handling food
  • Ensure hygienic sanitation

There are vaccines available for preventing meningitis and one should consult a doctor to know the relevant vaccine for the right age-group. If you know someone who is dealing with this condition during this period of lockdown, then make sure to provide them with care and support in any way you can. If you see their symptoms worsening then seek medical help ASAP. 

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