Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening disease that comes on quickly. Having knowledge about its causes, symptoms, incubation period and treatment methods will be helpful to you.
The human brain and the spinal cord are covered with protective membranes known as meninges. The inflammation of these meninges by bacteria or virus is known as meningitis. Depending on the cause, meningitis is divided into two types: bacterial meningitis and viral meningitis.
An Overview on Bacterial Meningitis
Among the two types, bacterial infection is more serious and fatal. Due to the infection, the tissues swell, leading to an obstructed blood flow, and consequently a stroke or paralysis. Bacterial meningitis can be caused due to a large number of bacteria like Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae or Streptococcus pneumoniae. Having a weak immune system puts you on a high risk of contracting meningitis. Infants and children are at a higher risk of suffering from this condition than adults.
High fever, headache and stiff neck are the prominent symptoms of bacterial meningitis. The neck becomes so stiff that the person is unable to lower or move his head. Other symptoms include:
- Refusal to eat (in babies)
- Joint pain or muscle pain
- Stomach cramps
- Whimpering cry (in babies)
- Swelling of head (in babies)
- Skin rash
Bacterial meningitis incubation period refers to the time gap from the time the disease-causing bacteria enters the body, to the time when the symptoms are first seen. The incubation period for bacterial meningitis is 2-10 days. However, in some cases, the symptoms may even appear earlier than this.
Is Bacterial Meningitis Contagious?
It should be noted that some forms of meningitis are contagious, and can be spread by coming in direct contact with the respiratory and oral secretions of the person suffering from it, kissing, sharing utensils, etc. It is mildly contagious, and spreads only through close contact with the infected person. The infection does not spread through casual contact like shaking hands or breathing in the same air as the infected person.
If the aforementioned symptoms are observed, one should look for treatment at the earliest. A sample of the spinal fluid helps in diagnosing the disease. The doctor may advise you to undergo blood and urine tests
If the symptoms are ignored or not diagnosed at the early stage, complications like seizures, paralysis or even death may be observed. Therefore, early diagnosis is important for recovery.
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial meningitis. They may be given alone or in combination to treat the bacterial infection. Antibiotics are usually administered intravenously. Along with antibiotics, other drugs and steroids may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation. In case of severe meningitis, hospitalization in intensive care unit (ICU) may even be required.
► Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene can help in preventing several infectious diseases. You should make sure that children wash their hands before having food, and after using the lavatory.
► As aforementioned, the infection spreads through exchange of bodily fluids; the only way to prevent it is not sharing personal items like toothbrushes, towels or even food and drinks.
► Vaccination is another effective method to prevent bacterial meningitis. Children, teenagers, old people, people living in large groups like in hostels, or working in hospitals, etc., should be specially vaccinated.
► Sometimes, in certain countries, there may be an epidemic of bacterial meningitis. If you are thinking of traveling, you should make sure that the place is safe for visiting.
► It is wise to stay away from people suffering from infectious diseases. Children and babies, especially, should avoid contact with sick people.
According to the statistics, the number of deaths occurring due to this disease is relatively low. The infection can be cured completely, if diagnosed and treated at proper time. As there are safe and reliable vaccinations available, prevention of bacterial meningitis is possible. Take care!
Disclaimer: This article is not to be used as a substitute for proper medical treatment. Consulting the doctor is recommended in case you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms.