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What Is Bacterial Meningitis?

What is bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is extremely serious and can be deadly.

Bacterial meningitis can be severe and identifying the symptoms can save your life. Inflammation of the membranes that outline the brain and spinal cord is called meningitis. This infection can be bacterial or viral, although there are also fungal forms of the disease. Viral meningitis is the most general type.

Death can occur in as little as a few hours. More often than not, people recover from meningitis. Permanent disabilities can be the result in severe cases. Brain damage, hearing impairment, and learning disabilities can be some of the consequences from the infection.

In the United States there are several types of bacteria that cause meningitis. These bacteria are also connected with sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s crushing reaction to any infection that cause harm to the body’s tissue and organ failure that might result in death.

Known meningitis causing bacteria:

  • Streptococcus pneumonia (newborns, babies, children, teens, adults, older adults)
  • Group B Streptococcus (newborns, babies, children and older adults)
  • Neisseria meningitides (babies, children, teens, young adults, older adults)
  • Haemophilus influenza (babies, children and older adults)
  • Listeria monocytogenes (newborns and older adults)

When the bacteria gets into your bloodstream and spread to your brain and spinal cord it usually initiates an infection which results in bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis, if left untreated, can be life threatening. The bacteria causing meningitis (bacterial) are usually found in our natural surroundings and may exist in the nose (sinuses) and respiratory system without causing any damage. The cause of an infection may be difficult to identify and test might be required. The infection might cause tissues around the brain to swell which in turn may obstruct with blood flow. This reaction could lead to paralysis, seizures or even stroke.

The bacteria that cause meningitis can be spread from one person to another but it is important to know that bacterial meningitis can also be developed by eating certain foods which contain the Listeria bacterium.

Common foods that contain Listeria are processed (sandwich) meats, soft cheeses and hot dogs (sausages).

Risk factors you should familiarize yourself with

Some people are at bigger risk for bacterial meningitis. These factors include:

  • Your age. All babies are at risk. Older adults or people with existing low immunity system can develop bacterial meningitis.
  • Society or community setting. Groups of people living, studying or gathering together tend to spread infectious diseases such as bacterial meningitis easily. Outbreaks of meningococcal disease are not that uncommon where large groups are drawn together.
  • Existing or specific medical conditions. Certain medications, surgical procedures and medical conditions such as cancer increase risk for bacterial meningitis.
  • Working with animals or meningitis-causing pathogens may increase risk for the disease.
  • If you are traveling certain areas in the sub-Saharan Africa, especially during dry season and Mecca during the yearly Hajj pilgrimage.

Many people are carriers of these bacteria and never become sick. These “carriers” can spread bacterial meningitis unknowingly to others.

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