Meninges are the three membranes that cover and protect the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges caused by injury or infection. There two types of meningitis: the first is caused by a virus and the second by bacteria, the latter being the more virulent. Infections caused by viruses most often get better on their own, but if infected by bacteria, it is very important to seek treatment immediately. Bacterial meningitis can cause death or brain damage unlike viral meningitis.
In addition to the viral and bacterial types, meningitis can also be caused by the following triggers:
- Chemical irritations
There are many types of viruses which can cause meningitis, some of which include:
- Enteroviruses (which cause intestinal illnesses as well)
- West Nile Virus – spread by a species of mosquitoes causing viral meningitis
- Mumps and HIV viruses – cause a type of meningitis called aseptic meningitis
- Herpes virus – causes Herpes meningitis. This is the same type of virus that causes genital herpes and cold sores, though people with cold sores or genital herpes do not necessarily develop meningitis.
Late summer, into the East Monsoons is generally the time when viral meningitis may occur. Children and adults under the age of 30 are the most vulnerable to an attack of viral meningitis.
Symptoms to watch out for:
- Severe headache
- Fever and shivers (particularly in children and newborns)
- Changes in mental status
- Meningismus (stiff neck)
- Vomiting and Nausea
- Decreased alertness
- Rapid breathing
- Head and neck arched backwards
- Bulge in the fontanelles in babies (soft spot on the skull)
If you observe one or more of these symptoms, or suspect that it could be an attack of meningitis, then consulting a doctor immediately and seeking urgent medical treatment is very important.