Meningitis is a bacterial infection that can be caused from a number of different bacteria or viral infections. It is a medical condition infecting the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, also called meninges. People with meningitis include flu-like symptoms that come on suddenly, such as fever and chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Causes of Meningitis

Many different things can lead to meningitis, with the most common being viral infections that haven’t gotten better after receiving treatment. These are known as traditional forms of meningitis. Bacterial meningitis, however, is more severe and can result in brain damage or death. Other causes include a chemical irritation, drug allergies, tumors, or fungi. There are many different types of meningitis including aseptic meningitis, cryptococcal meningitis, gram negative meningitis, H. influenza meningitis, carcinomatous meningitis, meningococcal meningitis, pneumococcal meningitis, staphylococcal meningitis, syphilitic aseptic meningitis, or tuberculous meningitis. All forms of bacterial meningitis are considered medical emergencies and need immediate treatment. Other types of meningitis may be from herpes, West Nile virus, or other viruses.

Symptoms of Meningitis

Meningitis has a variety of signs and symptoms, most of which come on very quickly. Symptoms include fever, child, mental status and mood changes, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, severe headaches, stiff neck, agitation, bulging fontanelles, decreased consciousness, rapid breathing, poor feeding or irritability in children, or unusual posture such as the head and neck being arched backward. In newborns and children, meningitis can be a cause of fever so they should get medical attention immediately.

Diagnosing Meningitis

A physical examination is the first step to diagnosing medical conditions, including meningitis. The doctor will be looking for a fever, stiff neck, and mental status changes. If meningitis is suspected, they will need a variety of tests including a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, blood culture, chest x-ray, CSF examination for glucose, protein, and cell count, CT scan of the head, and a gram stain.

Treating Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis usually needs antibiotics to help treat it. The type of antibiotics will depend on what bacteria is causing the meningitis infection. However with viral meningitis, antibiotics are not effective treatments. Additional medications and intravenous fluids can be used for viral meningitis that will help reduce the brain swelling, prevent shock, and help treat seiures. Some people will be admitted to the hospital, depending on the severity of their infection. Viral meningitis is not serious and should be gone in 2 weeks but bacterial meningitis has t be treated right away.

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