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What you need to know about bacterial meningitis

The most serious form of meningitis is bacterial meningitis. This can result in death or permanent disability. It is an emergency drug.

Meningitis affects the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and together with the cerebrospinal fluid, protect the central nervous system (CNS).

The mortality rate for bacterial meningitis was 34 percent in 2006, and after treatment 50 per cent of patients suffered long-term effects.

The mortality rate for bacterial meningitis was 34 per cent in 2006, and after treatment 50 per cent of patients suffered long-term effects.

Then antibiotic treatment must begin as soon as possible.

Several types of bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae), and Group B Streptococcus, can cause bacterial meningitis.

Other types of meningitis include viral, worm, fungal, and non-infectious meningitis but the most serious is the bacterial form.

Vaccines have reduced the incidence of bacterial meningitis significantly.

Fast facts on bacterial meningitis

Here are some facts about bacterial meningitis. More detail is in the main article.

  • In the United States (U.S.) from 2003 to 2007, there were around 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis each year, of which about 500 were fatal.
  • Bacterial type is the second most common type viral meningitis, but it is more serious.
  • Infants are at high risk of bacterial meningitis, and it spreads easily in places where many people gather, such as college campuses.
  • Early signs include a fever and stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and increased sensitivity to light. Immediate medical attention is essential.
  • Vaccination is important to prevent meningitis. Vaccines that protect against three types of bacterial meningitis are Neisseria meningitidis (N. meningitidis), Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae), and Hib.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningitis signs can show up either unexpectedly or over a few days. They usually develop within 3 to 7 days of infection.

Early Meningitis Signs include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • headache and a stiff neck
  • muscle pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • confusion
  • cold hands or feet and mottled skin
  • in some cases, a rash that does not fade under pressure

Later symptoms include seizures and coma.

Infants may:

  • breathe quickly
  • refuse feeds and be irritable
  • cry excessively, or give a high-pitched moan
  • be stiff, with jerky movements, or listless and floppy

The fontanelle may be bulging.

Meningitis rash glass test

When blood spills into the tissue under the skin, a meningitis rash develops.

It can begin at any part of the body as a few small spots, then spread rapidly and look like fresh bruises.

The glass test can help to identify a meningeal rash.

  1. Press the side of a drinking glass firmly against the rash.
  2. If the rash fades and loses color under pressure, it is not a meningitis rash.
  3. If it does not change color, you should contact a doctor immediately.

The rash or spots may fade and then come back.

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by a range of bacteria, including:

  • Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae) type B (Hib)
  • Neisseria meningitides (N. meningitides)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumonia)
  • Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes
  • Group B Streptococcus

People are more likely to get infected by different strains at different ages.

The bacteria that cause meningitis usually pass through droplets in coughs and sneezes, or through saliva or spit, for example, from one person to another. Others forms can spread through the diet.

During childbirth, Group B streptococcus can pass from mothers to neonates.

Some are carriers. You have the bacteria but have no symptoms. Living in a home with either a carrier or someone suffering from meningitis increases the risk.

To prevent meningitis, it’s important to follow the recommended vaccination schedule. H. For countries that do not give the Hib vaccine, influenza is the main cause of bacterial meningitis for children younger than 5.

Risk factors

Bacterial meningitis may occur at any age, but is more vulnerable to children.

Other factors that increase the risk include:

  • an anatomical defect or trauma, such as a skull fracture, and some kinds of surgery, if these allow a way for bacteria to enter the nervous system
  • an infection in the head or neck area
  • spending time in communities, for example, at school or college
  • living in or traveling to certain locations, such as sub-Saharan Africa
  • having a weakened immune system, due to a medical condition or treatment
  • working in laboratories and other settings where meningitis pathogens are present

Recurring meningitis of the bacteria is likely, but is rare. Research indicate that 59% of recurring cases are caused by anatomical defects, and 36% occur in people with impaired immune systems.


Care for bacterial meningitis typically involves hospital admission, and likely an intensive care unit.

Antibiotics are necessary, and these can be started before test results return, probably before hospital arrival.

Treatment covers:

  • Antibiotics: These are usually given intravenously.
  • Corticosteroids: These may be given if inflammation is causing pressure in the brain, but studies show conflicting results.
  • Acetaminophen, or paracetamol: Together with cool sponge baths, cooling pads, fluids, and room ventilation, these reduce fever.
  • Anticonvulsants: If the patient has seizures, an anticonvulsant, such as phenobarbital or Dilantin, may be used.
  • Oxygen therapy: Oxygen will be administered to assist with breathing.
  • Fluids: Intravenous fluids can prevent dehydration, especially if the patient is vomiting or cannot drink.
  • Sedatives: These will calm the patient if they are irritable or restless.

Blood testing may be used to track blood sugar, sodium, and other essential chemicals levels in the patient.

Because several types of bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis, a variety of vaccines are needed to prevent infection.

In 1981 the first vaccine was created to protect against 4 of the 13 N subtypes. Meningits.

A survey of 17 million people in the U.S. showed that the incidence of all types of meningitis decreased by 31 percent from 1998 to 2007 after compulsory meningitis-causing bacteria vaccines were introduced.

The meningococcal vaccine in the United States is the primary vaccine. All children should have this at 11 to 12 years of age, and again at 16 years of age, when the risk of infection is greater.

Hib vaccine protects kids from H. INFLUNCEE. Before its arrival in the United States of America in 1985, H. Influenzae affected more than 20,000 children under 5 years of age last year with a mortality rate of 3 to 6 per cent. Widespread vaccination has decreased bacterial meningitis incidence by more than 99 per cent.

The Hib vaccine is given in 4 doses at 2, 4, 6 and 12 to 15 months of age.

Side effects of the vaccines can include redness and discomfort at the injection site and a fever. Please check with your doctor to make sure there are no reactions to any aspect of the vaccines.

It is necessary to practice good hygiene, such as daily handwashing, to prevent the spread of bacterial meningitis and other illnesses.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis will make immediate intervention easier, if necessary.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.

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