Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Most cases are caused by bacteria or viruses, but some can be due to certain medications or illnesses.
Bacterial meningitis is rare, but is usually serious and can be life threatening if not treated right away. Viral meningitis (also called aseptic meningitis) is relatively common and far less serious. It often remains undiagnosed because its symptoms can be similar to those of the common flu.
People of any age can get meningitis, but because it can be easily spread among those living in close quarters, teens, college students, and boarding-school students are at higher risk for infection.
If dealt with promptly, meningitis can be treated successfully. So it's important to get routine vaccinations, know the signs of meningitis, and if you suspect that your child has the illness, seek medical care right away.
Causes of Meningitis
Many of the bacteria and viruses that cause meningitis are fairly common and associated with other routine illnesses. Bacteria and viruses that infect the skin, urinary system, or gastrointestinal and respiratory tract can spread by the bloodstream to the meninges through cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that circulates in and around the spinal cord.
In some cases of bacterial meningitis, the bacteria spread to the meninges from a severe head trauma or a severe local infection, such as a serious ear infection (otitis media) or nasal sinus infection (sinusitis).
Bacterial and Viral Types
Many different types of bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis. In newborns, the most common causes are Group B streptococcus, Escherichia coli, and less commonly, Listeria monocytogenes. In older kids, Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) are more often the causes.
Another bacteria, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), also can cause the illness but because of widespread childhood immunization, these cases are rarer.
Similarly, many different viruses can lead to viral meningitis, including enteroviruses (such as coxsackievirus and poliovirus) and the herpesvirus.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
WE'VE GOT A GREAT ROUND-UP OF ACTIVITIES PERFECT FOR LONG WEEKENDS, STAYCATIONS, VACATIONS ... OR JUST SOME GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FUN!Get Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process