What is Bacterial Meningitis and is it Contagious

It is hard to believe that such a tiny unicellular bacterium can hold so much power over us. The sheer fear of coming into contact or being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis has some people running to the store for anti bacterial products with the hope of thwarting the potential case of this deadly disease.

However, in order to defeat something you first have to know the symptoms. Knowledge, especially when it comes to your health, is power and you want every weapon possible to fight this infection.

Bacterial Meningitis Types

Most people do not realize that three different types of harmful bacteria can cause bacterial meningitis. The three bacteria are:

  • Neisseria Menintidis
  • Streptococcus Pneumonae
  • Haemophilus Influenza Type B

You may not realize that you are sick at first. The first symptoms of meningitis usually manifest themselves as common flu warning signs and can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to appear.

How is Bacterial Meningitis Spread

This bacterial disease is spread through close quarters with someone who is infected. It is not spread by casual contact or by breathing in the same area. It requires an actual exchange of bodily fluids in order to take root within the unsuspecting body. The main victims are those who are in a highly contagious area, or children and infants. The symptoms can mimic a typical flu bacterium or pneumonia. Usually there is a high fever, a headache and a stiff neck.

Bacterial Meningitis Diagnosis

The only way to accurately diagnose this infection is through a spinal tap. A long hypodermic needle is inserted into the spinal cord in the lower back. The cerebrospinal fluid is then sent to a lab for confirmation that the bacteria are present. The procedure can be very painful, but is essential for determining whether the patient does have bacterial meningitis.

The United States, thanks to the Center of Disease Control, does not often have to deal with an outbreak of bacterial meningitis. Most children are vaccinated before eighteen months to help them develop immunity to this potentially deadly bacterium. However, if you are not vaccinated and intend to travel to an area that has had recent outbreaks of bacterial meningitis,  you may want to consider taking the serum to be sure you are not affected.

Page Updated: September 30, 2017
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