What is bacterial meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis is often severe and is considered a potential medical emergency. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis may be fatal or cause serious long-term complications. Because bacterial meningitis can progress rapidly, it is important
to identify the bacteria and begin antibiotic treatment as soon as possible.
Acute bacterial meningitis is a true medical emergency, and requires immediate hospital-based treatment. Bacterial strains that cause meningitis include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus), Listeria monocytogenes, and many other types of bacteria. In the U.S. about 17,500 cases of bacterial meningitis occur each year.
Bacterial infection in the ears, mouth, or sinuses can spread directly to the brain and spinal cord. Some types of bacteria are transmitted from person to person through secretions from the mouth and nose.
The bacteria are spread among people by coughing, sneezing and kissing. These bacteria cannot live outside the body for long, so they cannot be picked up from water supplies, swimming pools, or a building's air-conditioning system.
Individuals can carry these bacteria for days, weeks, or months without becoming ill. In fact, about 25 percent of the population carries the bacteria. Only rarely do the bacteria overcome the body's defenses and invade the cerebra spinal fluid, causing meningitis.
More information on meningitis
What is meningitis? - Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membrane envelopes that encase the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can range from mild to life-threatening.
What's viral meningitis? - Viral meningitis, also called aseptic meningitis, is caused by many different viruses. Most viral meningitis is associated with enteroviruses.
What is bacterial meningitis? - Bacterial meningitis may be fatal or cause serious long-term complications. Acute bacterial meningitis is a true medical emergency.
What causes meningitis? - The most common infectious causes of meningitis vary according to an individual's age, habits, living environment, and health status.
What causes bacterial meningitis? - A number of types of bacteria can cause acute bacterial meningitis. They include pneumococcus, meningococcus, haemophilus, and listeria.
What're the risk factors for meningitis? - People who work with domestic animals and pregnant women are at increased risk for meningitis associated with listeriosis.
What're the complications of meningitis? - The complications of meningitis can be severe. Some of these effects are permanent and physically disabling.
How is meningitis diagnosed? - A number of techniques are used to verify the diagnosis. The most important test used to diagnose meningitis is the lumbar puncture.
What's the treatment for meningitis? - Antibiotic medications are the most important element of treatment against bacterial agents of meningitis.
How to prevent meningitis? - Vaccines to protect against S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae type b (Hib) are available and have dramatically reduced the number of meningitis cases.