|Please read this educational artical.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain.
Is It Viral or Bacterial?
Meningitis is difficult to recognize, understand and diagnose. It is often called spinal meningitis, bacterial meningitis or viral meningitis.
Essentially, there are two major divisions of meningitis -- viral (caused by a virus) and bacterial (caused by one of several types and strains of bacteria residing in the throat or nasal passages). The bacterial form of meningitis is extremely dangerous, fast-moving and has the most potential for being fatal. For many survivors, the long-term effects can be debilitating, possibly including multiple amputations, hearing loss and kidney damage. Many (but not all) forms of bacterial meningitis can be prevented by vaccination. Viral meningitis has similar symptoms to bacterial meningitis, but is neither as deadly nor as debilitating for the most part. There is no vaccine protection against viral meningitis; it is most often treated with an antibiotic.
Major Bacterial Types
There are many forms and types of bacteria which cause meningitis, but NMA focuses particularly on meningococcal meningitis because it is deadly, preventable and very few people, including doctors, are fully informed about methods of prevention against the disease.
The three main kinds of bacterial meningitis in the U.S. are:
1. Meningococcal meningitis (Neisseria meningitidis)
These are big words for one of the most devastating types of meningitis today. The disease is expressed as either meningococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or meningococcemia, the presence of bacteria in the blood. Meningococcal meningitis is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis for U.S. toddlers, adolescents and young adults.
The five main serogroups (or types) of bacteria in the U.S. are A, B, C, Y and W-135, which cause more than 95 percent of meningococcal disease worldwide. The bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis reside in the throats and nasal passages of approximately 15 percent of the general population. Researchers are unsure why the bacteria attacks some people while most of the population are not affected.
2. Pneumococcal meningitis (Streptococcus pneumoniae)
This variety primarily attacks younger children. In 2000, the U.S. approved a new conjugate vaccine for young children. The vaccine is deemed to be very effective and safe. There is some misunderstanding about pneumococcal meningitis. Even though the CDC has published a recommended vaccination schedule, parents need to understand this disease can also kill older children.
3. Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) disease
Hib meningitis primarily attacks the very young, but it has nearly been eradicated in the U.S. since the introduction of infant vaccination programs against Hib in the mid-1980s.
About Meningococcal Disease
Meningococcal meningitis is a serious, potentially fatal bacterial infection that strikes nearly 3,000 Americans annually. In particular, adolescents and young adults are at increased risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis.
There are nearly 3,000 cases every year in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 10-12 percent of the cases are fatal (about 300 to 360). Among those who survive meningococcal meningitis, approximately 20 percent suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations.
Who is at Risk?
Adolescents and young adults have an increased incidence of meningococcal meningitis compared to the general population, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. cases annually. However, up to 80 percent of cases among adolescents may be vaccine-preventable.
The disease is especially significant among college students, since studies show freshmen living in dorms are particularly vulnerable to meningococcal meningitis. Adolescent and young adults may be at an increased risk of infection due to certain lifestyle factors, such as:
- Crowded living conditions (such as dormitories, boarding schools and sleep-away camps)
- Moving to a new residence
- Attendance at a new school with students from geographically diverse areas
- Sharing beverages or utensils
- Going to bars
- Active or passive smoking
- Irregular sleeping patterns
Other risk groups include infants and young children, refugees, household contacts of case patients and military personnel.
How is it Spread?
Meningococcal meningitis is contagious. The disease is transmitted through air droplets and direct contact with infected persons (e.g., coughing, kissing or sharing utensils, drinking glasses, cigarettes, etc.).
The bacteria attach to the mucosal lining of the nose and throat where they can multiply. When bacteria penetrate the mucosal lining and enter the bloodstream, they travel rapidly throughout the body and can cause damage to many organs. The bacteria cannot live outside the body for very long, so the disease is not as easily transmitted as a cold virus. The disease occurs most often in late winter and early spring.
Ways to help prevent spreading the disease include following good hygiene practices, such as washing hands, not sharing water bottles or other drinks, avoiding cigarettes and generally not transmitting or sharing items that have been in one's mouth.
Even those who have been vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis should be aware of the symptoms in themselves or in others.
Meningococcal meningitis is often misdiagnosed as something less serious because early symptoms are similar to the flu. Early symptoms of meningitis, the most common form of meningococcal disease, are sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered mental status and seizures often accompany these symptoms. After the disease has taken hold, a rash may appear.
Left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly, often within hours of the first symptoms, and can lead to shock, death or serious complications, including hearing loss, brain damage, kidney disease or limb amputations. Students are urged to seek medical care immediately if they experience two or more of these symptoms concurrently, or if the symptoms are unusually sudden or severe.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine for use among persons aged 11 to 55 years. Menactra vaccine is the first quadrivalent conjugate vaccine licensed in the U.S. for the prevention of meningococcal disease. Menactra vaccine is designed to offer protection against four serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis (A, C, Y, W-135), which account for approximately 70 percent of cases in the United States.
Conjugate vaccines have been shown to stimulate more powerful immune responses. In general, the benefits of a successful conjugate vaccine include long-term immunity without the need for revaccination as well as decrease carriage of meningococcal bacteria among adolescents, preventing the spread of the disease.
Before Menactra, a polysaccharide vaccine called Menomune – that provides protection against four of the five disease strains for three to five years – had been quite effective in reducing rates of the disease among certain populations.
No vaccine currently is available in the U.S. to protect against serogroup B, though one is available in New Zealand, and in Norway and Cuba, scientists are conducting studies of vaccines against the B serogroup. Additionally, there has been promising research sponsored by a parent group in Scotland that claims to have made a significant breakthrough in solving the serogroup B problem in that country
As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site or a mild fever, which typically last for one to two days. Immunization is not recommended during pregnancy or if the individual has a compromised immune system.
To find out if a meningococcal vaccination is right for your family, please contact your health care provider.
CDC Recommendations on Vaccination
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the CDC on national vaccination policy, met in February 2005 and developed new recommendations calling for routine meningococcal meningitis immunization for young adolescents at the pre-adolescent visit (11-12 year olds), adolescents at high school entry and college freshmen living in dormitories.
Other health advocacy groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) are currently reviewing the new recommendations targeting younger adolescents and college students, and are expected to adopt similar recommendations in the near future.
What is the Treatment?
Health care must be immediate and aggressive to prevent death and/or serious side effects. Once meningococcal meningitis is suspected or diagnosed, it is treated with heavy doses of antibiotics. Early treatment is essential to reduce the risk of death. However, because the disease can progress so quickly, early treatment does not guarantee a full recovery. Antibiotics also should be given to those in close contact with a person who is diagnosed with meningitis.
Meningococcal bacteria can cause two life-threatening conditions: meningitis and sepsis. Rebecca was infected with this type of Meningitis:
In meningitis, the bacteria attack the lining around the brain called the meninges. They breach the meninges to infect the fluid running into the spinal cord. One clear, early symptom is a stiff, sore neck. The meninges and brain start to swell, putting pressure on essential nerves. Fewer than one in 50 victims of meningococcal meningitis will die, but survivors are often left deaf or with permanent brain damage.
The other type of infection is much more deadly, killing roughly 20 percent of its victims. It's a severe blood poisoning called meningococcal sepsis that affects the entire body. The bacterial toxins rupture blood vessels and can rapidly shut down vital organs.Meningococcal bacteria commonly live in the human throat without causing harm. But sometimes they break through the throat's lining and enter the bloodstream. The reasons why and how are only now being unraveled. Damage to the throat from flu and other infections could be one factor. Every meningococcal bacterium is surrounded by a slimy outer coat that contains a poisonous chemical called an endotoxin. While many bacteria produce endotoxin, the levels produced by meningococcal bacteria are 100 to 1,000 times greater than normal. As the bacteria multiply and move through the bloodstream, they shed bubbles that contain concentrated amounts of toxin. These bubbles also act as decoys, confusing the body's immune system. The endotoxin targets the heart, affecting its ability to pump and also causes blood vessels throughout the body to leak. As every vessel starts to hemorrhage, major organs like the lungs and kidneys are damaged and eventually destroyed. Two things can stop this runaway infection before the patient dies: antibiotics like penicillin, and the patient's own immune system. As soon as doctors suspect meningococcal disease, patients are given a large dose of antibiotic, usually penicillin. Penicillin flowing through the bloodstream rapidly kills the bacteria. But it cannot penetrate the bubbles that contain the endotoxin. In fact, as the bacteria are killed, they release even more toxin. It takes up to two days for the poison to be cleared from the body and the siege to end. As soon as the bacteria entered the bloodstream, unleashing the poisonous endotoxin, the body began responding on its own. White blood cells, the hunter-killers of the immune system, locked onto the bacteria, engulfing them and coming into contact with the endotoxin. The poison causes the white cells to release chemicals that make the blood vessel walls sticky. The white cells then become trapped on the walls, leaving a trail of damage. Gradually the lining of the blood vessels is stripped away. And as the damage increases, the vessel walls break up and pieces fall off. The blood's repair cells, called platelets, rush to plug up the damaged areas. Dangerous clots begin to form. The proteins that normally prevent clotting have all been destroyed. Within minutes the small blood vessels of the body are completely blocked. The damaged blood vessels disintegrate, and blood and other fluids hemorrhage into the surrounding tissue. It is this cascade of events that causes the distinctive rash that appears beneath the skin and kills tissue throughout the body.
I wanted to add this to the page so that the public is
aware of the seriousness of this disease, I hope you find it educational for yourself and those you love.