Here are the top interesting facts about meningitis:
#1 It is an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and the fluid in the spinal cord. These can become inflamed due to a virus or an injury, however, the most dangerous form is caused by a bacterial infection.
#2 If not treated correctly, this infection can cause brain swelling and may lead to coma, permanent disability, and even death.
#3 Adolescents between 15 and 19 years of age and children under 5 years old are most at risk to have this condition. However, anyone can get it at any time.
#4 In the US, viral meningitis (VM) affects approximately 10 people in 100,000, and bacterial meningitis (BM) affects approximately 4,000 people per year.
#5 Worldwide, this condition affected more than 8.7 million people in 2015. This led to about 379,000 deaths. Most of the patients are people living in the 26 countries, from Senegal to Ethiopia, known as “African meningitis belt.” In this part of the world, epidemics occur every seven years with attack rates reaching about 1,000 cases of 100,000 population.
#6 This condition is caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the spinal cord and brain. It can be caused by a variety of organisms, including viruses and bacteria. Other causes may include – fungi, drug allergies, injury, chemical irritation, or cancer. Moreover, it can occur after an individual has had an infection and his immune system is weakened.
#7 VM, also known as aseptic meningitis, is the most frequent and least severe type. The majority of patients recover well, even if complete recovery might take more then a month.
#8 Meningococcal meningitis (MM) is the bacterial form and is the most serious type. About 1 in 5 MM cases occur in people aged 11 to 24. Approximately 14% of MM cases are fatal, plus, another 15% lead to brain damage.
#9 Even when the bacterial form is diagnosed early and correct treatment is started, almost 10 percent of sufferers die, usually within 24 to 48 hours after the first symptoms.
#10 The bacteria which cause this condition can pass from one person to another, for instance, through sneezes, saliva or spit, or droplets in coughs. Some types can even spread through food.
#11 There are five types of bacteria which can cause MM and include – Listeria monocytogenes, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, Group B Streptococcus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
#12 First symptoms usually include:
- stiff neck;
- purple areas on the skin similar to bruises;
- sudden high fever;
#13 As the condition gets worse, symptoms include:
- a rapid breathing rate;
- photophobia – being unable to tolerate bright lights;
- a blotchy red rash.
#14 These symptoms commonly occur suddenly, after about 7 days of the initial contact with bacteria.
#15 In infants, symptoms include:
- poor feeding;
- the soft spot on the top of the head (fontanelle) may appear to be bulging.
#16 The treatment pretty much depends on the type:
Antibiotics are useless again VM, but most patients improve on their own in about one month. Treatment is usually focused to reduce the symptoms and may include – medicines to help relieve body aches and reduce fever, plenty of fluids, and bed rest.
#17 MM requires injectable antibiotics and fluid replacement. Antibiotics commonly used include:
- Vancomycin, for penicillin-resistant strains of Streptococcus pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus;
- Ampicillin (a semi-synthetic derivative of penicillin), for Listeria monocytogenes and Haemophilus influenzae type B;
- Cephalosporin antibiotics (a large group of antibiotics derived from the mold), like – ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and cefotaxime (Claforan), for Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
#18 In some cases, admission to a specialized hospital may be required.
#19 A healthy immune system can help prevent an infection from the bacteria and viruses which cause this serious condition.
#20 You can boost your immune system best if:
- you drink alcoholic beverages only in moderation;
- don’t smoke tobacco;
- spend time outside to boost your vitamin D levels since many studies have concluded that vitamin D (also referred as the sunshine vitamin) works to promote protective immunity;
- there is also a strong link between sleep (at least 7 hours per night for an adult) and a healthy immune system;
- practice regular moderate physical exercise because it may lead to changes in white blood cells and antibodies;
- eating fruits (apples, pineapples, mangoes, elderberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, passion fruit, cherries, papayas, bananas, pears, watermelons, cantaloupe), legumes (chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, mung beans, Adzuki beans, green peas), vegetables (carrots, cabbage, garlic, onion, turnips, broccoli, bell pepper, cayenne peppers, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, zucchini, cauliflower), whole grains (quinoa, oats, amaranth, barley), seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds), spices (ginger, turmeric), and nuts (almonds, Macadamia nuts, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans).