Meningitis, although one of the world’s most deadly diseases has long being a mysterious illness which eludes the understanding of many, owing to its limited spread. However, in recent times in Nigeria, meningitis has become a cause of anxiety and worry as the spread of the dreaded disease in different states, has regrettably taken many lives with it. Therefore it is important that we arm ourselves with knowledge to prevent and manage the condition so we can live better and healthier lives.
The big question;
What is Meningitis?
It has been defined as a serious disease which affects the spinal cord and the brain. Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of the meninges – the three membranes that envelope the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) *dura mater, *arachnoid mater, and the * pia mater.
What causes meningitis?
Although Meningitis is generally caused by viral or bacterial infection, some non-infectious causes also exist. Here we look at; disorders that are not infections, for example an inflammation can occur when the body’s immune system begins to malfunction and attacks the body’s own tissues, known as autoimmune disorders. It can also be caused by drugs or vaccines. Worthy of note is that non- infectious causes are uncommon causes of meningitis.
Meningitis isn’t easily recognised and in many cases may even progress without any visible symptoms. That said, you should note that sometimes in its early stage it might be similar to flu. Some other early symptoms broadly include; Nausea, neck stiffness, muscle pain, high temperature (fever), headache and cold hands and feet. These are typical in adults sufferers, but in babies symptoms to look out for include; Fever, cold hands and feet, refusal of food/ vomiting, irritable, skin rashes/spots, unable to sleep, rapid breathing or grunting, unusual crying, Pale, blotchy skin, bulging fontanelle (soft spot).
Types of meningitis
Although the most common, this is rarely a serious infection with no specific treatment as most times it resolves by itself within a week. It can be caused by mosquito-borne viruses. No serious complication arises from viral meningitis.
Somewhat the opposite of viral meningitis, this is generally regarded as a serious infection caused by bacteria; Haemophilus influenzae type b, Neisseria meningitidis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. When in contact with the discharges from the nose or throat of a person an infected person, a person can get infected.
The type of treatment is dependent on the cause of your meningitis. When it comes to bacterial meningitis, immediate hospitalisation is required so it goes without saying that early detection, diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis is key. This goes a long way to prevent brain damage and death.
As earlier mentioned, Viral meningitis isn’t treated and usually resolves on its own within a period of a week or two.
Preventing bacterial meningitis
The most effective way to prevent yourself from getting the disease when in contact with an infected person is to get vaccininated.
Other preventive methods? Close contact with an infected person via secretions; saliva, sputum, nasal mucus or sharing personal items; utensils, food, drinks is a big NO NO. It is advisable to maintain good hygiene; regular hand washing…
Plus, never underestimate a healthy diet, this can help boost your immune system to wad off unhealthy intruders. An healthy immune system prevents infection from the viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis and remember to do regular exercise.
A few percentage of meningitis survivors suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss, or limb amputation.