What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the membrane or thin lining that covers the brain and spinal cord, usually caused by a virus or bacteria.
Is it important to know the type of meningitis?
Knowing whether meningitis is caused by a virus or bacteria is important because the severity of illness, its treatment and the prevention of spread to other people are different.
While viral meningitis is generally less serious and clears up within a week or two without specific treatment, bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities or death.
Who gets meningitis and how?
Although older children and adults can get bacterial meningitis, it is most common in infants and children under five years of age. Usually germs causing meningitis are carried in the upper back part of the throat. They are spread through coughing, kissing and sneezing.
Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as the common cold or the flu. They cannot live outside the body for long, so they cannot be picked up by casual contact, water supplies, swimming pools, buildings or areas where a person with meningitis has been.
Sometimes, however, the bacteria have spread to people who have had close or prolonged contact with the patient. People in the same household or child care setting, or anyone with direct contact to the patient’s oral secretions, would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Young children with meningitis show symptoms of unusual irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever and excessive, loud crying. Older children and adults may experience severe headache, fever, stiff neck and vomiting.
These symptoms may quickly progress to unconsciousness, convulsions and death. So, if any child displays symptoms of possible meningitis, he or she should receive immediate medical care.
Can bacterial meningitis be treated?
Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. However, it is important to start treatment early.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- GED Math Practice Test 1