July 29, 2010

Health Topic Day- Meningitis

I am at work today, working in the hospital, where we have had this ridiculous amount of kids coming in with viral meningitis.  I have never seen so many cases all at once.  It seems as though someone is running around spreading meningitis on purpose.  So with this little outbreak happening, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about meningitis.

Meningitis is a scary disease for many parents. Bacterial meningitis is dangerous and life threatening, where viral meningitis is not.  There is no way for a parent to tell the difference though between the two.  So it's important to know the symptoms of meningitis and get your kids to the doctor as soon as possible. 

Meningitis is when there is an infection in the membranes covering the spinal cord and brain causing pain in the neck and back, severe headaches, fever, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes vomiting.  Sounds almost like a bad migraine right?  It's definitely worse.

Bacterial meningitis is rare, generally prevented by vaccines.  The vaccines that prevent meningitis are important and should not be skipped.  These vaccines are Hib, Meningococcus, and pneumococcus.  Bacterial meningitis is a life threatening illness that can be as quick as 24 hours after symptoms start. 

It is spread through drops of saliva on drinking surfaces or coughing.  So don't share drinks with people and cover your coughs.

Meningitis is diagnosed by a lumbar puncture.  Thats where they put a needle into the spine to collect spinal fluid.  This sample of fluid will not only tell the doctor if there is an infection but also which type- viral or bacterial.  Diagnosis can be made rather fast after aspiration.  The bacterial meningitis consumes the glucose in the spinal fluid which is what feeds the brain tissue.  So when the glucose is low in the spinal fluid, it is bacterial meningitis. 

When a diagnosis is made for bacterial meningitis, the patient should be on IV antibiotics and fluids.  People with viral meningitis generally don't need to be hospitalized unless the symptoms can't be controlled at home.

Stay heathly out there!   

1 comment:

  1. I have a 14 year old cousin in the hospital for the second time with meningitis. Unsure if it is viral or bacterial. She is way out in Tennessee though so maybe it is just spreading bad this year.



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