What is meningitis?
Meningitis is the inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Viral meningitis is common and most people recover fully. Parasitic and fungal meningitis are very rare. Bacterial meningitis is very serious and may involve complicated medical, surgical, pharmaceutical, and life support management.
How is it bacterial meningitis spread?
People spread meningococcal bacteria to others by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (ex. kissing, coughing, sneezing). Generally, it takes close or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria and fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or flu.
What are the symptoms?
Someone with meningitis will become very ill. The illness may develop over one or two days, but it can also progress rapidly in a matter of hours. Children and adults with bacterial meningitis commonly have a severe headache, high fever, and neck stiffness. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, photosensitivity (discomfort looking into bright lights), confusion, sleepiness, and/or a rash of tiny, reddish-purple spots. These spots can occur anywhere on the body. The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is based on a combination of symptoms and laboratory results.
How serious is bacterial meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. However, if bacterial meningitis is diagnosed early and treated promptly, the majority of people make a complete recovery.
How can bacterial meningitis be prevented?
Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease.
One dose of the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine is required for all students in grades 7-12. This dose must be received on or after your child's 11th birthday to be valid.
Other ways to prevent illness include getting adequate rest, eating a nutritious diet, covering your nose & mouth when coughing or sneezing, and practicing good hand hygiene.
Information regarding bacterial meningitis is available online from the CDC in both English and Spanish.