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Meningitis Strikes Quickly and without Mercy

Meningitis is an infection that causes the swelling of the fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can cause headaches, fever, stiff neck, and other symptoms. A Meningitis infection can lead to life-threatening complications if not treated promptly. Meningitis strikes without warning and progresses quickly. Knowing more about the symptoms and how to prevent it can be lifesaving.

Symptoms and Types

Anyone at any age can get meningitis, but teens and young adults are among those who are at increased risk.  The bacteria that cause the infection can spread when people have contact with someone’s saliva, like through kissing, coughing, sharing beverages or even cosmetics. It is particularly troublesome in group settings such as summer camps, high schools and colleges as it is common for adolescents and young adults to be less adherent to vaccine schedules due to less frequent pediatric appointments and/or moving away from home. 

Symptoms:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache that seems different from normal
  • Headache with nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • No appetite or thirst

One of the most common types of Meningitis is bacterial, often called Meningococcal Meningitis.

  • Bacteria that enter the bloodstream and travel to or directly invade the brain and spinal cord cause acute bacterial meningitis.
    • It can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention.
    • It is associated with severe illness and death.  Up to 15% of those that contract invasive meningitis (when the bacteria enters the bloodstream) die from the disease as quickly as one day.  Even with treatment 1 in 5 of the survivors live with permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function or limb amputations.
    • Predominantly caused by N. meningitidis and there are 5 predominant strains. 

Prevention Now, and for the Future

Vaccination is the best defense against meningitis and meningococcal disease.  The current vaccine covers 4 strains of the virus and is given in early childhood with a booster at age 16, yet only half of U.S. teens have received the recommended second dose of the MenACWY vaccine at age 16.  A second meningococcal vaccine for strain B is recommended at age 16. 

A new approach is to combine the 4-strain vaccine with the strain B vaccine to provide both a booster from the original vaccine and coverage for strain B.

Seattle Women’s has a meningitis study enrolling soon. To learn more, call (206) 522-3330 or visit our website.

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508#:~:text=Meningitis%20is%20an%20inflammation%20of,fever%20and%20a%20stiff%20neck.

https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html

https://www.comomeningitis.org/types-of-meningitis

https://www.meningitisb.com/risk.