Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling. However, injuries, cancer, certain drugs, and other types of infections also can cause meningitis.
Where is meningitis most commonly found?
Meningococcal disease occurs worldwide, with the highest incidence of disease found in the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, major epidemics occur every 5 to 12 years with attack rates reaching 1,000 cases per 100,000 population.
Where do you get meningitis?
Bacteria that enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain and spinal cord cause acute bacterial meningitis. But it can also occur when bacteria directly invade the meninges. This may be caused by an ear or sinus infection, a skull fracture, or — rarely — some surgeries.
What does the start of meningitis look like?
The meningitis “rash” can start as a blanching rash, but nearly always develops into a non-blanching red, purple or brownish petechial rash or purpura, meaning it will not disappear when pressed.
How can meningitis be prevented?
The most effective way to prevent meningitis is to get vaccinated against the disease. There are currently two vaccines available in the U.S. that protect against most types of bacterial meningitis.
How is meningitis detected?
For a definitive diagnosis of meningitis, youll need a spinal tap to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In people with meningitis, the CSF often shows a low sugar (glucose) level along with an increased white blood cell count and increased protein.
Who is most at risk of meningitis?
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but rates of disease are highest in children younger than 1 year old, with a second peak in adolescence. Among teens and young adults, those 16 through 23 years old have the highest rates of meningococcal disease.
How does meningitis start in adults?
Often it is the result of an infection by bacteria that already live in the nose and mouth. The bacteria enter the blood and become lodged in the brains outer covering, the meninges. Meningitis can also be caused by the spread of an infection occurring near the brain, such as from the ears or the sinuses.