As one of the most serious health conditions, it’s important to gather as much information as possible about meningitis
Meningitis is a severe health condition which, over the last 10 years, has been on the rise in the UK.
The condition is an infection which impacts the protective membranes which surround the brain and the spinal cord, otherwise known as the meninges. Although meningitis can strike anyone of any age, it is most common in babies, children, teenagers and young adults.
If left untreated, the condition can be extremely serious. It can result in life-threatening blood poisoning through septicaemia, and may also lead to brain and nerve damage.
Symptoms of meningitis include a high temperature, sickness, headaches, rash, stiff neck, sensory sensitivity (particularly to bright lights), drowsiness and even seizures.
Understanding meningitis is the first step to successfully avoiding it, which is why we’re here with three key facts you may not already know about this deadly infection. Let’s take a look.
There is more than one cause of meningitis
We often refer to meningitis as a single condition, but in fact there are many different organisms involved which can impact sufferers. The most common bacterial cases of meningitis include:
- Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus)
- Group B streptococcus
- Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as pneumococcus)
- Listeria monocytogenes
The bacteria which can result in meningitis are not as contagious as those viruses responsible of the common cold or flu, but it’s still advised that you practice safe hygiene, especially when travelling further afield.
- Washing your hands regularly
- Safely handling food
- Avoiding unpasteurized dairy products
- Not sharing toothbrushes
- Not eating or drinking off someone else’s plate or out of someone else’s glass
Different people are at risk of different causes of bacterial meningitis
Lifestyle factors can play a huge role in determining your risk of meningitis, and the kind of bacteria you are most susceptible to. Those who live in close quarters, or have undergone serious surgery, are at an increased risk, as are those who have a brain or skull injury or immunosuppression.
Different kinds of meningitis also pose a higher risk to certain groups of people.
- Newborns – most affected by group B streptococcus meningitis
- Adolescents – most affected by meningococcal meningitis
- Adults – most affected by pneumococcal meningitis
- Older adults and pregnant women – most affected by listeria meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is rarer than viral meningitis, though both should be considered a risk. Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:
- Sharing utensils, cutlery and toothbrushes
The condition is usually passed on from people who carry the viruses or bacteria but aren’t ill themselves It is actually less likely that you will catch meningitis from someone with the condition.
Meningitis can cause permanent damage if left untreated
In severe cases, meningitis can cause permanent damage. Among the most common complications is hearing loss, but the condition can also result in brain damage, including neuro-cognitive difficulties caused by inflammation in the base of the brain.
In extremely severe cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and could even require the amputation of limbs. It can also be fatal if left untreated.
If someone is experiencing the symptoms of meningitis, it is important that they seek medical attention immediately.