Meningitis is a nervous system disease that arises when the membranes that covering it get inflamed as a consequence of viral or bacterial infection. In some instances, the membranes can developed a reaction to certain drugs and they respond by getting inflamed. This essay seeks to offer an exhaustive analysis of the disease, starting covering the symptoms, prevention and treatment. To this end a number of scholarly sources shall be consulted to serve as primary guides to the discussion. At the end of the discussion, recommendations on what needs to be done to increase awareness of the disease will be presented.
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Meningitis manifests in a number of different ways depending on the age and sometimes immunity status of the affected individual. For toddlers, meningitis initially causes the baby to have difficulty in breathing. The baby also cries in a high-pitched moan as well and cannot feed properly. In addition, when the child’s skin is put under pressure, it develops visible purple or red spots which do not disappear even after the pressure is withdrawn B (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4). Some affected babies’ skins also turn pale in addition to the development of the unnatural spots. In some instances, the baby becomes stiff and it becomes difficult to wake him or her up.
Older children, when attacked with meningitis, initially start complaining of a stiff neck, back ache, severe migraines and pain in the joints. As the disease progresses the child start feeling constantly drowsy and confusion kicks in. Later sensitivity to light kicks in followed by clammy hands and feet. Like in babies, children affected with Meningitis develop visible red and purple spots on their skins when pressed down, with the spots staying on even with the release of pressure. Heavy panting and shivering is also a symptom of advancing meningitis.
In adults, meningitis initially presents in the form of severe headaches and a stiffening of the neck. The patient also grows very sensitive to light and noise. In the advanced stage, the patient goes through a high fever accompanied by heavy sweating and sometimes a difficulty in breathing.
Meningitis is transmitted through a number of ways depending on the infecting agent. The various transmission paths are detailed below:
Mother to child-During delivery, some of the bacteria and viruses that cause meningitis can be transmitted from the mother to the baby. This is especially possible when proper midwifery standards are not maintained leading to the child getting contaminated with blood from the mother (Saez-Llorens and McCracken 2143). Amniotic fluid is usually sterile and can keep the baby safe as it move out of the birth canal. The child has a limited time to pass through the canal without getting any contamination after the fluid washes over the path. However, in some instances it may get trapped necessitating an episiotomy to the mother. The blood arising from this lateral cuts can get into the baby’s system. Some forms of bacteria can also manage to get into the blood stream of the child.
Fecal exchange- Fecal matter is the primary conduit of enteroviruses and many forms of bacteria. Individuals can pick some of the bacteria leading to meningial inflammation through contamination with infected fecal matter. These causal agents can get into the circulation and nervous system enterically (Saez-Llorens and McCracken 2146). Improper midwifery practices can also lead to the ingestion of fecal matter by the baby as it maneuvers through the birth canal.
Aerial contamination- The kind of bacteria that cause meningitis can be spread from one person to another aerially. This happens when a person coughs or sneezes without taking the precaution of covering his/her mouth. Crowded spaces are particularly unsafe because of the improper circulation of air.
Medication- Some forms medication, such as the kind used in chemotherapy has the side effect of weakening the immune system of an individual. This makes an individual prone to fungal attacks sometimes leading to the development of fungal meningitis (Biernath 284-285).
The bacteria leading to the development of meningitis can also be transmitted through the exchange of saliva. This can happen through kissing or any other form of close contact leading to the sharing of saliva. In some rare instances, bacteria and fungi can be transmitted from insects.
Effects of meningitis on other body organs
By affecting the Central Nervous system, meningitis in turn affects a number of other body organs, and can even lead to death if not treated on time. Because of instability in blood-pressure levels during a meningial attack, the blood supply to organs such as kidneys is compromised, in some instances resulting in hemorrhage. Untreated meningitis can damage the nerves supplying the eyes and ears (Tunkel 1267-68). This results in either partial or complete blindness and/or deafness. Once blindness and/or deafness kick in, they are generally irreversible, even with complete treatment of the primary disease. However, there have been isolated cases where blindness associated with meningitis reverses itself.
There are various methods that can be used to prevent the development of meningitis. These preventive measures depend on the causative agent as explained below:
Prevention of bacterial meningitis
Bacteria are the primary agents associated with meningitis. Various ways of protection oneself from bacterial attacks are advised depending on the age of the individual. The first method is vaccination. Studies have led to the development of three types of vaccines against three different types of meningitis causing bacteria. These are: Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1-3). The vaccines against these bacteria are administered sequentially and one has to go through the full schedule to gain the full benefits of vaccination.
Antibiotics can be used to provide a short-tem protection from the bacteria that causes meningitis. However, this method is only recommended in special situations such as in intubated patients (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 15). Meningococcal bacteria easily develop resistance to certain antibiotics and, therefore, any prophylactic treatment should be carefully monitored for efficacy.
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Bacteria-caused meningitis is contagious, because the bacteria are deposited in respiratory areas and can easily cross from one person to another through mucosal and salivary secretions (Saez-Llorens and McCracken 2139). Crowed areas should be avoided by all means. Maintenance of healthy habits such as opening of windows to encourage air circulation in public-access buildings also helps in the prevention of contamination with any forms of bacteria.
Prevention of viral meningitis
The virus that causes mumps has been known to potentially lead to the development of meningitis. Immunization is generally used to help prevent occurrence of mumps and this is administered in the early stages of life (Logan and MacMahon 33). By extension this kind of vaccination helps prevent instances of mumps-related meningitis.
Prevention of fungal meningitis
Fungal meningitis usually affects people with weakened immune systems. These are in most cases individuals that have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This individuals use some medication for symptomatic treatment, medication which creates a fertile ground for fungal attacks. Avoiding contact with any sources of fungi, including some plants (such as mushrooms) helps reduce the chances of contracting fungal meningitis.
Meningitis is treated by issuing of medication that specifically addresses the causal agent. In situations where bacterial meningitis is suspected but has not been confirmed empiric antibiotics may be recommended (Saez-Llorens and McCracken 2148). Depending on the type of bacteria detected and age of the patient, a number of antibiotics can be used to offer a first line of defense. In children and adults over the age of 50 years, ampicillin is recommended as an empiric treatment. This drug helps deal with Listeria monocytogenes as further investigation is conducted. Once the tests are completed and the disease has been confirmed then the broad-spectrum antibiotics can be switched with specific antibiotics.
Viral meningitis, by virtue of the fact that it is caused by a virus, has no specific treatment. In this regard, all that can be offered is therapeutically support as the infection runs its course (Logan and MacMahon 18-19). In general viral meningitis goes through a benign course, when compared to bacterial meningitis and individuals can recover from it without committed medical intervention.
Fungal meningitis can be taken care of using amphotericin B, administered in high doses. Because fungal meningitis comes associated with an increased intra-cranial pressure, lumbar puncture is recommended as a treatment method (Saez-Llorens and McCracken 2146-48).
Educating people about meningitis
Meningitis is a relatively common disease. However, most people do not know how to detect it or what supportive measures to install when it strikes. In order to educate the public on the disease a number of methods can be used. Conferences can provide practical platforms for the educating the public on the disease. Spots can be placed traditional broadcast media such as television and radio, discussing the disease’s presentation and management. Publishing articles in traditional print media such as newspapers, magazines, journals posters and flyers can also help further educate the public on the disease. Finally, publishing information on the disease in online media such as websites and blogs can also contribute to the public getting more informed about the disease.
This paper had set out to discuss the neural disease that is meningitis. The manifestations of the disease and its control and treatment have been well elaborated. Finally, methods of educating members of the public on the disease were identified. It should be noted that this discussion was not exhaustive as it has left out a lot of information. However, the requirements and scope of the current project have all been met. It is recommended that the relevant institutions put structures in place to ensure that members of the public understand that meningitis can be fatal if not treated on time. The people also need to be taught on the remedial measures to take in the event of a meningitis attack.
Biernath, Krista. “Bacterial meningitis among children with cochlear implants beyond 24 months after implantation.” Pediatrics 117.2 (2005): 284-289. Print.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Prevention and control of meningococcal disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).” MMWR 54.7(2005): 1-21. Print.
Logan, Sarah and Eithne MacMahon. “Viral Meningitis.” BMJ 336.1 (2008): 36-40. Print.
Saez-Llorens, Xavier and George McCracken. “Bacterial meningitis in children.” The Lancet 361.9375 (2003): 2139-48. Print.
Tunkel, Allan. “Practice guidelines for the management of bacterial meningitis.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 39.9 (2004): 1267-1284. Print.