Diagnosis & Treatment
Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be mistaken for those of the flu, and the disease progresses rapidly -- so knowing what the red flags are is crucial.
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges (tissue) surrounding the brain. Three vicious bacteria -- Haemophilus influenzae type B, Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae -- are generally the culprits that infect the meninges, triggering this fast-attacking disease. Children and adults 2 years and older with bacterial meningitis usually appear to have the common flu because symptoms are so similar. They include the following:
Bacterial meningitis in newborns
Bacterial meningitis is harder to detect in newborns than in older kids, but this, too, is commonly be mistaken for a bad case of the flu. Symptoms are as follows:
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms and they worsen significantly and rapidly, get to a doctor fast. Bacterial meningitis affects the body rapidly, causing debilitating damage and sometimes death in only a matter of hours.
Bacterial meningitis is diagnosed when the bacterium is detected in a sample of the patient's spinal fluid, which is extracted through a spinal tap -- a procedure in which a hypodermic needle is inserted in the spinal column.
Once diagnosed, doctors fight off the disease with a series of aggressive antibiotics -- sometimes a single antibiotic, sometimes a combination of antibiotics, through a shot one to four times a day for seven to 21 days depending on the strain of bacteria. Antibiotics kill the bacteria, so once they're injected into the body, the damage stops. The sooner these antibiotics are introduced, the better. Bacterial meningitis can result in permanent blindness, hearing loss, organ failure, brain damage or paralysis quickly.
Luckily, meningitis vaccinations are available and highly effective at fighting off the bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis. Keep yourself and your family current with meningitis shots, and know the symptoms.
More on meningitis
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