Meningitis occurs when the meninges (the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) become inflamed and infected. Symptoms include:
Stiff neck, shoulders or back
Fever and drowsiness
Severe headache usually associated with pain in the eyes
Severe shooting pain down the back of the neck
Seizures and coma
In infants: a stiff neck and floppy body, and a bulge in the soft spot on the skull
There are two types of meningitis - viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis, is common, but it is not dangerous. However your doctor should still be consulted so as to confirm which strand of meningitis you are suffering from. Symptoms are usually flu-like and can be more severe, especially if left untreated. The bacterial form is called Meningoccal meningitis. It sometimes occurs in local epidemics, and is a very serious illness. It is extremely important that you get immediate medical attention, or death may occur in hours. This disease has been known to occur in spina bifida babies and also in very young children. Meningitis can be contagious among people who live close together.
Viral meningitis is usually triggered by a variety of viruses, often these viruses are spread through contact with infected rodents. Another cause is a fungal which is often found in pigeon droppings. Bacterial meningitis is caused by any one of several bacteria. These bacteria are often spread from person to person through sneezing and coughing. There is some research which indicates that a person is more vulnerable to bacterial meningitis after a bout of the flu or if there happens to already be an infection present in the body at the time. A lumbar puncture or spinal tap has to be performed to confirm meningitis. Samples of urine, blood and secretions from your ears or nose might also be taken.
You should eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, avoid sugar and processed foods and vitamin supplements should also be taken so as to maintain a healthy immune system and prevent recurrences of infections that can lead to meningitis.
When to seek further professional advice
As soon as you develop any of the symptoms described above.
Alternative treatments should only be used after you have received emergency medical care as meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal disease.
Meningoccal meningitis, the bacterial form of meningitis is life-threatening and immediate medical treatment is extremely important. Your doctor may recommend that people that you have been in contact with undergo preventive antibiotic treatment.
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