Meningitis is potentially fatal, an infection within the brain and spinal cord caused by various bugs, commonly viral but also bacterial or by and amoeba.
The first symptoms are not specific – high fever, a cold, headache – before the more worrying symptoms of stiff neck, vomiting or nausea, sever tiredness, rash and sensitivity to light occur. Sometimes, people have seizures.
One of the hallmarks of meningitis is rapid progression of the illness. People can o from being a bit unwell to extremely unwell in less than 24 hours. Whilst a rash is often thought to be a specific symptom, it is not. And it is not the first symptom.
The main risk factor is age – those under five are most vulnerable. Teens are also at risk as are those with compromised immune systems. People living in close proximity such as dorms or boarding facilities are also at increased risk.
If meningitis is suspected you need to seek medical help immediately. In almost all instances people with meningitis need hospital. Blood tests will be needed, as will a lumbar puncture which takes spinal fluid for microscopic examination and a CT scan to image the brain.
Diagnosis is based on clinical and test findings.
Treatment depends on case and the earlier the better. Bed rest, fluids and pain relievers are needed for viral meningitis. Antibiotics are needed for bacterial meningitis.
Complications amongst survivors can include hearing loss, paralysis, learning difficulties and brain damage.
Preventative measures include vaccination (only some forms of meningitis), basic hygiene like washing hands and lifestyle things that help enhance your immune system.
For information visit: www.meningitis.com.au