BY JAY DOMANTAY
MAY 11, 2009
A bacterial infection of blood poisoning in the meninges called bacterial meningitis affects toddlers, adolescents and young adults. The infection strikes nearly 3,000 Americans each year, and 10 to 12% of those infected will die. Among those who survive, approximately 20 % live with permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or loss of limbs.(“Prevention of Meningococcal Disease: Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.” www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial/faqs.htm, January 2009). Meningitis is an inflammation of membranes(meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid lining the brain and spinal cord, usually due to the spread of an infection and germs. People sometimes refer to this as spinal meningitis. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis(caused by a virus) is less serious and is cured without specific treatment. Bacterial meningitis(caused by bacteria) which is more serious because there are so many types of bacteria. It is important to know the strain of bacteria that is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting others. The disease is transmitted through air droplets and direct contact with infected persons. The bacteria attaches to the mucosal lining of the nose and throat where they can multiply. When the bacteria penetrates the mucosal lining and enter the bloodstream, they travel rapidly throughout the body and can cause damage to many organs. Pus builds up in the subarachnoid space, ceases cerebrospinal fluid flow thus causing hydrocephalus. The bacteria cannot live outside the body for very long, so the bacteria is not as easily transmitted as a cold virus. Meningitis is often misdiagnosed as something less serious because early symptoms are similar to the flu. The disease occurs most often in late winter and early spring. Anyone can acquire meningitis but those at greater risk are: children less than 5 years of age, elderly adults, people who have had their spleen removed, hygiene practices like washing hands, children in childcare centers, coughing, kissing, sharing beverages or utensils, going to bars, active or passive smoking, irregular sleep patterns, crowded living conditions, moving to a new residence, students in college dorms, and soldiers in military barracks.
Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency and immediate steps must be taken to determine the specific cause, commonly from streptococcus pneumoniae and neisseria meningitis. The death rate of untreated disease approaches one-hundred percent and treated late can have a higher failure rate. The presence of bacterial meningitis in adults have classic symptoms of fever, altered mental status, severe headache, nuchal rigidity, vomiting, nausea, confusion, seizures, sleepiness, difficulty waking up, sensitivity to light, lack of interest in drinking and eating, skin rash. Earlier signs and symptoms that may signify serious infection are leg pain, ice-cold hands and feet, abnormally pale skin tone. (“Treatment and prevention of bacterial meningitis in adults.” www.uptodate.com, February 2009).
Sometimes symptoms cannot be communicated to health care providers because of age like in children of younger than 5 years old. Some symptoms include: constant crying, excessive sleepiness, irritability, dislike being held, poor feeding, a bulge on the baby’s fontanel, trouble breathing, cough, cranky, bruise-like rash or splotchy skin, fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit , and stiffness in the baby’s body and neck. (“Public Health and Retail Clinics.” Registered Nurses, February 2008).
If left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly, often within hours can lead to long term problems including: shock, brain damage, hearing loss, paralysis, blood poisoning (meningococcemia),...