Meningitis is an inflammation that affects the three membranes that cover and protect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord
). It is most often of infectious origin and causes common signs like a fever
or other neurological symptoms. There are two types of infectious meningitis: Viral meningitis, which is most often benign, and bacterial meningitis, more dangerous and needing to be treated urgently. Bacterial meningitis imposes a treatment for those who live with the patient because of its contagious nature. Meningitis mainly affects children and young adults.
Symptoms of meningitis are rapid in onset and associated with fever and chills as well as other signs:
- headaches, which are often severe;
- stiff neck, painful to move;
- intolerance to light, called photophobia;
- intolerance to loud noises, phonophobia;
- nausea or vomiting;
- drowsiness or sometimes behavioral problems;
- confusion, especially among the elderly.
In cases of suspected meningitis, an emergency appointment must be made. There is a presence of purpura
, red patches of sudden onset that do not disappear with pressure. The management of suspected meningitis is done in a hospital with the realization of a lumbar puncture
: a sample of cerebrospinal fluid
taken near the spine
. The analysis of this liquid in the laboratory can confirm meningitis and determine whether it is caused by a virus
or bacteria. In some cases, a CT scan can be done before the puncture. Meanwhile, a blood test
will be done.
The treatment of meningitis must be fast. If there is purpura associated with meningeal syndrome, antibiotics
are given before the results of the lumbar puncture, even before its completion if the puncture cannot be performed within a reasonable time. If signs are very bad, the drugs will be given after the blood test and before the puncture. In other cases, the analysis of cerebrospinal fluid is necessary to determine whether antibiotics are necessary. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed depending on the case.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious via respiratory contact; one must be very careful and implement isolation measures in case of suspicion. If the meningococcus germ is identified, the entourage and professionals who have been in contact with the patient must take preventive treatment. A statement of the case to a regional health agency is also required. Vaccination is now recommended for children. Other bacteria or viruses that cause meningitis can be prevented by vaccination (measles
, polio ...).