How Do You Get Bacterial Meningitis

What is Meningitis? Bacterial meningitis is classified as inflammation of the meninges (thin lining that surrounds the brain) with or without the cerebrospinal fluid being involved. It is estimated that over 1.2 million new cases of bacterial meningitis will be reported annually worldwide (CDC). Between 2003-2007 around 4,100 bacterial meningitis cases were reported, within the United States alone (CDC). This life threatening condition has been linked to several causes and requires emergency treatment, if the victim has an opportunity of a good outcome.

Bacterial Meningitis In Children

Bacterial meningitis has been linked to different causes, in each age group.

  • Newborn bacterial meningitis is caused by Group B streptococcus, E-Coli, and Listeria monocytogenes
  • Children bacterial meningitis is caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, nesseria meningitidis, and haemophilus influenza Type B (more commonly seen in children under the age of 5)
  • Adolescence and young adults bacterial meningitis is caused by Neisseria meningitidis (more commonly seen in colleges) and streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Aging adult bacterial meningitis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, Neisseria meningitidis, and streptococcus pneumoniae

Africa has the highest reported cases of meningococcal meningitis and N. meningitidis serogroups A, C, W135, and X have been linked to this epidemic.

Newborns and infants are at a higher risk, with children that have undergone cochlear implant procedures are even at a higher risk. To decrease these risk, children with cochlear implants should undergo a series of vaccines to help combat the disease.

Non-Infectious Meningitis

This type of meningitis is not contagious and is often caused by lupus, head trauma, specific drugs, cancer, and brain surgery. Meningitis often has a sudden onset of symptoms including headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, photophobia (light sensitivity), and fever.

Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis in Infants

  • Fontanelle (soft spot) will be bulging
  • Irritability
  • Refusing to feed
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Lethargic and sluggish

Increased Risk Factors

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infants
  • Community setting living environments (college dorms)
  • Chemotherapy treatments and other medications that decrease immunity
  • Medical professional that work in labs that deal with these pathogens
  • Foreign travelers (Mecca, Africa)

How Does Meningitis Spread

Bacterial meningitis is very contagious, but less contagious than influenza virus and rhinovirus. It is spread through droplet transmission, which means that the infected source will sneeze, cough, or exhale respiratory droplets and the recipient will inhale them. Person-to-person contact transmission through kissing and sharing eating utensils will also help spread the disease.

Incubation Period of Bacterial Meningitis

The incubation period is considered to be the time of exposure, until the onset of symptoms, which is around 2-10 days, but 4 days being the average.

Treatment of Bacterial Meningitis

  • Isolation
  • IV antibiotic therapy (ampicillin, penicillin, and ceftriaxone)

Diagnosis of Bacterial Meningitis

  • Lumbar puncture with examination of the cerebral spinal fluid, if the fluid is cloudy or purulent this is a sign that bacteria is present.
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction (blood and spinal fluid specimens)

Prevention: Bacterial Meningtitis Vaccine

  • PCV7 Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (given with regular immunization schedule, with children under the age of 2, but is also highly recommended in children between the ages of 2-5, if suffering from lung or heart disease
  • Hib-MenCY Haemophilus influenza Type B and N Meningitidis serogroups C and Y should be administered around the 19 months or younger, but no less than 6 weeks of age. It is administered in 4 doses 2, 4, 6, 12, and 15 months
  • MCV4 meningococcal conjugate vaccine is administered at 11 and 12 years of age, with a booster to be administered at 16 years of age, but no later.
  • PPSV pneumococcal polysacchraride vaccine is only recommended for aging adults over 65 years of age and individuals that have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease

Prognosis of Bacterial Meningitis

While most victims of bacterial meningitis will survive the likelihood of them have permanent brain damage, paralysis, and CVA (stroke).