Meningococcal Disease - Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial Meningitis, also known as Meningococcal Disease, is an infection that occurs in the fluid that surrounds the brain or in the fluid of the spinal cord. Another term for the diseases is Spinal Meningitis for this reason. The treatment for Meningitis varies according to the agent that causes the disease. Meningitis can be caused by either a virus or bacterium and the nature of the illness varies according to the agent. Meningitis caused by a virus is usually less problematic and can be resolved without special treatment. However, Bacterial Meningitis is a more threatening disease that can lead to a learning disability, the loss of hearing, or damage of the brain. It is crucial to pinpoint the exact bacteria that is causing the problem so that the appropriate antibiotic can be prescribed to resolve the disease and prevent it from spreading to others.

Up to the 1990s, the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b was the most common cause of Bacterial Meningitis. Fortunately, vaccines have been developed against this strain of Bacterial Meningitis and has been administered to children as a part of regular immunizations. The bacterium Neisseria meningitides and Streptococcus pneumoniae have replaced Haemophilus influenzae as the leading causes of the disease.

The most common symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis include stiff neck, high fever, and  headache. It make take from just a few hours to about 48 hours for such symptoms to manifest. Additional symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis may entail vomiting, confusion, nausea, sleepiness, and low tolerance for strong lighting. It may be difficult to detect symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis in infants. Parents are advised to look out for lethargy, irritability, lack of appetite, or vomiting. Symptoms may include seizures with the progression of the disease.

Diagnosis of Bacterial Meningitis typically requires a sample of spinal fluid via a spinal tap. Your doctor will extract the fluid from the lower back using a syringe. Bacteria is then grown from the sample that has been taken. This method ensures that the species of bacteria is correctly identified as the causal agent of the disease and will assist in the prescription of necessary antibiotics.

Bacterial Meningitis may require more than one antibiotics for successful treatment. Early detection and treatment is crucial to successful recovery, especially for the elderly who are more vulnerable to the disease. With quick treatment, the fatality rate will drop below fifteen percent.

Bacterial Meningitis may be contagious from person to person because the bacteria can spread through bodily fluids and secretions from the throat and lungs such as coughing. In relation to the common cold, Bacterial Meningitis is not that contagious and there is no risk to simply being in the same room as someone who is ill from the disease. Prolonged exposure is advised against because of the bacteria Neisseria meningitides which causes Meningococcal Meningitis and also because of the Haemophilus influenzae type b. Consult a medical professional straight away if you suspect that you are at risk, especially of the Neisseria meningitides, which requires antibiotics as soon as possible to prevent disease.

Vaccines for Bacterial Meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b, Neisseria meningitides, and types of Streptococcus pneumoniae are available and are considered very effective and safe. Two vaccines against Neisseria meningitides are available in the United States. They are called MPSV4, which received FDA approval in 1981, and MCV4, which is newer and received FDA approval in 2005. MPSV4 may also be called Menomune. MCV4 is also known as MenactraT. While the vaccine does not protect a patient against all kinds of Bacterial Meningitis, it is greatly beneficial for people who risk becoming sick from certain types of the disease.

Medical professionals recommend that children receive the MCV4 vaccine at eleven years of age. If you are past this age and would like a vaccination, consult your doctor for advice. College students living in dorms, scientists working with bacteria, military recruits, and people with a weak immune system or a problematic spleen should get the vaccine. If you have travel plans to countries known to have Bacterial Meningitis, you should consider the vaccine as well. The vaccine MCV4 works well for individuals aged from eleven to up to fifty five years old. MPSV4 is recommended for those who lie outside of the recommended age range.

For travelers who are visiting countries where Bacterial Meningitis has reached epidemic scale, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines are typically required at least a week before the departure date. The United States has never had Bacterial Meningitis as an epidemic. Individuals aged sixty five or over should look into the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. This vaccine can also benefit infants under two years of age who suffer from chronic illness.


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