Meningitis: What You Should Know!
May 24 , 2022
Spinning and throbbing head? Stiff neck? These could be signs of a serious illness called Meningitis. Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges, which are the delicate protective layers covering our brain and spinal cord. It can affect any age group but is more common in children.
What are Meninges and Meningitis?
Meninges are three very delicate layers that are enclosing our brain and spinal cord and have fluid in between them. These protective layers provide a cushioning effect and protect our very vital Central Nervous System(CNS) from any trauma or direct blow, acting as shock-absorber.
These layers can get inflamed, that is, they get swollen because of infection caused by bacteria, viruses or any other reasons.
Symptoms of Meningitis
Symptoms of Meningitis manifest in the following ways:
- High fever.
- Stiff neck.
- Loss of appetite.
What Causes Meningitis?
Meningitis can be caused by bacterial infection, virus, cancer, or any drug.
When bacteria find their way to the brain and spinal cord either directly or reaching via the bloodstream causing the inflammation. It can occur due to ear infection, sinus infection, skull fracture or rarely due to some surgeries. It is caused by several bacterial strains namely:
Streptococcus pneumoniae: It commonly causes pneumonia in infants, young adults and adults and is also one of the common reasons for meningitis.
Neisseria meningitidis: The most common type of meningitis is caused by Neisseria meningitidis called Meningococcal meningitis. It is highly contagious causing upper respiratory infection and spreading through coughing and sneezing. This is the type common during Hajj.
Haemophilus influenzae: Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is the most common cause of meningitis in infants.
Listeria monocytogenes: This type of bacterial meningitis is common in pregnant women, newborns, older adults and immunocompromised.
Viral meningitis resolves after completing its period and does not cause serious illness.
It is mild and caused by Enteroviruses. Other viruses such as Herpes simplex virus, HIV, Mumps virus, and West Nile virus. It is contagious and spreads via an infected person’s sneezing and coughing.
It might be mistaken for acute bacterial meningitis. Inhaling fungal spores found in soil, decomposing wood, and bird droppings is a common way to contract it. Fungal meningitis is not spread from one individual to another. Cryptococcal meningitis is a fungal type of meningitis that affects persons with immunological weaknesses like AIDS. If not treated with antifungal medicine, it might be fatal. Fungal meningitis can recur even after therapy.
Eosinophilic meningitis is an uncommon kind of meningitis caused by parasites. Tapeworm infection in the brain (cysticercosis) or cerebral malaria can potentially induce parasitic meningitis. Amoebic meningitis is an uncommon kind of meningitis that is occasionally obtained by swimming in fresh water and can be fatal. Typically, the parasites that cause meningitis infect mammals. People are often infected by consuming parasite-contaminated foods. People do not get parasitic meningitis.
Meningitis Due To Other Reasons
Noninfectious causes of meningitis include chemical reactions, medication allergies, some forms of malignancy, and inflammatory illnesses like sarcoidosis.
Diagnosis Of Meningitis
Meningitis can be diagnosed by history and examination and by carrying out the following diagnostic tests:
Blood Culture: Bacterial growth is observed in a sample of blood in a petri dish. A sample is also placed on a slide and stained (Gram's stain), then studied under a microscope to observe microbial growth.
CT Scan or MRI Scans: CT scans and MRIs of the head can detect inflammation(swelling). X-rays or CT scans of the chest or sinuses are also carried out to show associated infection.
Lumbar Puncture: Spinal tap or lumbar puncture is done to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for definitive diagnosis. A low sugar (glucose) level along with an increased white blood cell count and increased protein are indicative signs.
CSF analysis may also be done. In the case of viral meningitis, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification or an antibody test against certain viruses is carried out to detect the specific cause.
Meningitis Among Hajj and Umrah Pilgrims
Meningitis is common in Hajj and Umrah pilgrims since a large group of people come from different parts of the world and are in close contact. The meningococcal type of meningitis is common among pilgrims as it spreads from sneezing and coughing of infected persons.
Vaccination For Meningitis
The MenACWY vaccine (also known by brand names like Menactra, Menveo, and MenQuadfi) is a meningococcal conjugate vaccine that targets four of the most frequent bacterial serotypes. It lasts longer and provides more protection, especially if booster doses are taken regularly.
The Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, or MenB, targets a single strain and has a substantially narrower protective window. This vaccination is only recommended for select groups.
Meningitis can be lethal, with associated complications such as hearing loss, learning disabilities, brain damage, and death. Therefore it is important to beware of the signs and symptoms, especially during times when there is a big conglomeration of people such as during Hajj when the transmission of the disease becomes easier and can be a source of international outbreaks as well. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made quadrivalent meningococcal vaccination and antibiotic chemoprophylaxis mandatory.
Dr. Essa Laboratory & Diagnostic Centre offer vaccinations for pilgrims at our branches 24/7. Diagnostic tests for meningitis are also available. Visit our nearest branch or book online, or call at UAN: (021)-111-786-986