Meningitis is the inflammation and infection of the meninges, the membranes
covering the brain and spinal cord.
What to look for
severe headache usually associated with pain in the eyes.
stiff neck, shoulders, or
severe shooting pain down
the back of the neck
seizures and coma.
in infants, a bulge in
the soft spot on the skull.
in infants, a stiff neck
and a floppy body.
There are two types of
meningitis - the viral and bacterial forms. Viral meningitis is common and not as
dangerous. (It is still important to consult a doctor who will confirm which meningitis
strand the patient has).
The symptoms are usually
flu-like and/or more severe. The other type is a bacterial form and is called meningoccal
meningitis which sometimes occurs in local epidemics. This is a very serious illness and
it is vital to have immediate conventional medical attention or death may occur in hours.
This illness can occur in
spina bifida babies and also very young children in general.
Meningitis can be
contagious among people living close together.
Bacterial meningitis is
caused by any one of several bacteria. These bacteria are often spread from person to
person through coughing and sneezing. Some research indicates that people are more
vulnerable to bacterial meningitis after a bout of the flu or if there is already an
infection present in the body at the time.
Viral meningitis can be
triggered by a variety of viruses. These viruses can be spread through contact with
infected rodents. Another cause is fungal often found in pigeon droppings
Confirmation of meningitis
requires a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap.
Samples of your blood,
urine, and secretions from your nose or ears may also be taken.
The bacterial form of
meningitis in particular is life-threatening. Immediate medical treatment is vital
If you have meningococcal
meningitis, your doctor may recommend that people with whom you have been in close contact
undergo preventive antibiotic treatment.
Because meningitis is a
serious and potentially fatal disease, you should use alternative treatments only after
you have received emergency medical care.
To maintain a healthy
immune system and prevent recurrences of infections that can lead to meningitis, eat a
low-fat, high-fibre diet, avoid sugar and processed foods.
Vitamin supplements can also be helpful.
When to seek further