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Meningococcal meningitis: symptoms and treatment

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare type of bacterial meningitis, caused by the bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis, which can cause severe inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain, generating symptoms such as very high fever, severe headache and nausea, for example.

This type of meningitis usually occurs in the spring and winter, mainly affecting children and the elderly, although it can also occur in adults, especially when there are other diseases that cause a their immune system to become weakened.

Meningococcal meningitis is curable, but treatment should be started as soon as possible to avoid serious neurological lesions that can be life-threatening. Therefore, whenever there is suspicion of meningitis, one should go to the emergency room to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.

Meningococcal meningitis: symptoms and treatment

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include:

  • High fever above 38º;
  • Splitting headache;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Rigid neck, with difficulty in bending the neck;
  • Drowsiness and excessive tiredness;
  • Joint pain;
  • Light and noise intolerance;
  • Purple spots on the skin.

In babies, meningococcal meningitis can manifest itself with other symptoms such as tense fontanelle, agitation, intense crying, body stiffness and convulsions. In the baby it can be more difficult to understand which problem is causing intense crying, it is always best to consult a pediatrician, especially if there is any changes accompanied by a fever or changes in the fontanelle.

How to confirm the diagnosis

Since meningococcal meningitis is considered an emergency situation, you should go to the emergency room as soon as you suspect a possible infection in the meninges. In these cases, the doctor may be suspicious of the disease through the symptoms presented, but a lumbar puncture is necessary to identify if there is any bacterium in the spinal cord and confirm the diagnosis.

How is the treatment done

Treatment for meningococcal meningitis should be done as soon as possible in the hospital and it consists of administrating antibiotics directly to the veins, such as Ceftriaxone, for about 7 days.

During treatment, family members should wear protective masks whenever they visit the patient, since the transmission of meningococcal meningitis occurs through respiratory secretions, however, it is not necessary to remain in isolation.

What can cause meningococcal meningitis

Meningococcal meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain, caused by the presence of the bacterium Neisseria Meningitidis. This bacterium usually first infects other parts of the body, such as the skin, the intestine, or the lungs, and then it can reach the brain where it develops and causes a large inflammation of the meninges.

In rare cases, this bacteria can enter the brain directly, especially if there have been severe head trauma, such as in a traffic accident or brain surgery, for example.

How to protect yourself

The prevention of meningococcal meningitis can be done with the use of vaccines for meningitis included in the schedule of vaccination of the child, as well as other cautions such as:

  • Avoiding places with a lot of people;
  • Keep the rooms well ventilated;
  • Avoid enclosed spaces;
  • Maintain a good body hygiene.

In addition, people who have been in close contact with another infected people should consult a general practitioner to assess whether they have also been affected by the bacteria, initiating the use of antibiotics if necessary.

Possible lesions due to meningococcal meningitis

Meningitis affects the brain membranes and so t+there is a very high risk of complications such as:

  • Loss of vision or hearing;
  • Severe brain problems;
  • Difficulty in learning;
  • Muscle paralysis;
  • Heart problems.

The lesions caused by meningococcal meningitis usually arise when treatment is not done properly or when it is started too late.

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