Meningococcal Meningitis


What is Meningococcal Meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious, potentially fatal disease caused by a bacterial infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningococcal meningitis is spread from person to person through close contact, such as coughing and sneezing, and through sharing contaminated food and drinks. It can also be spread by contact with saliva or nasal fluids of an infected person. People of all ages can get meningococcal meningitis, but it is most common in infants, young children, and teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 21.

Symptoms of Meningococcal Meningitis

The most common symptom of meningococcal meningitis is a severe headache, which may be accompanied by stiff neck, fever, confusion, vomiting, and rash. Other symptoms may include nausea, sensitivity to light, and seizures. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria.

Risk Factors for Meningococcal Meningitis

Factors that can increase a person’s risk of getting meningococcal meningitis include:

  • Being in crowded living conditions, such as living in a college dorm or military barracks.
  • Being in contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household.
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking from the same cup as someone who has the infection.
  • Having a weakened immune system.
  • Having certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia or HIV.
  • Traveling to certain parts of the world where the infection is common, such as Africa, India, and the Middle East.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Meningococcal Meningitis

To diagnose meningococcal meningitis, a doctor will likely order a spinal tap to check the cerebrospinal fluid for bacterial infection. Treatment typically involves hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics to reduce the risk of death and disability. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible after the diagnosis is made.

Prevention of Meningococcal Meningitis

The best way to prevent meningococcal meningitis is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are available for all age groups and are recommended for certain high-risk individuals. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against meningococcal meningitis. Other prevention methods include practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands often and avoiding sharing eating utensils and cups, and avoiding close contact with someone who has the infection.