Meningitis is a disease that affects the brain, specifically the meninges of the brain, causing it to swell and at a time, cuts off the supply of blood to the brain. The disease can be caused by either a fungus, bacteria, or virus also referred to as fungal, bacterial, and viral meningitis respectfully.
Viral meningitis is the most common of the three and can be caused by either the Herpes Simplex Virus, mumps virus, HIV, or even the Measles and Influenza viruses. This type is commonly found in young children and rarely in adults. According to NCBI, some cases are not reported.
Bacterial meningitis is a common form in adults and is usually caused by Neisseria meningitides and in other cases by Streptococcus pneumonia. The bacteria are said to enter the body by passing through the nasal pharynx into the brain, this is according to NCBI.
Fungal meningitis is caused by a fungus most commonly Cryptococcus. Other types of fungus that are responsible for this type of meningococcal infection are; Histoplasma, Blastomyces, and Coccidiodes. They may be brought about by inhaling soil, bird or bat droppings. The disease is most prevalent in patients with illnesses that suppress their immunity, such as HIV. According to the CDC, this is the most common cause of meningitis in Africa.
There are other causes of meningitis, including amebic, parasitic and non-infectious meningitis. However, the three above are the most prevalent since they are the most infectious as well.
The most common way that people contract bacterial, viral and fungal meningitis is through airborne means. If droplets form the respiratory fluid of an infected person find their way into the air through either sneezing or coughing, it is very likely that the uninfected person breathing the air will contract the disease. The microbes enter the nasal cavity and multiply and travel through the nasal pharynx into the brain cavity.
The symptoms of meningitis are quite similar in either fungal, viral, or bacterial infections, and the causative pathogens are difficult to distinguish by symptoms alone. Only through an examination of the spinal fluid can the specific cause be determined. According to NCBI some of the common symptoms include stiffness in the neck, fever, headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light. A rash may also develop as a result of meningococcal sepsis. In some cases, there is a presentation of pneumonia as a symptom, but this only occurs in 6 to 15% of patients.
Can Meningitis Be Prevented?
Yes, there are vaccines, but they have not been developed to cover all the causative pathogens of the disease. The two available vaccines are meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV) and the conjugate.
The conjugate vaccines which introduce T-memory cells have been key in reducing infant mortality, and Haemophilus influenza conjugate vaccine type-b has been seen to reduce the carriage of the virus through the nasopharynx. This makes the vaccine quite effective.
Conjugate vaccines against Streptococcus pneumonia and Neisseria meningitides have proven effective in the US, reducing the rate of infection to 60% in children below five years. This is seen in a study on NCBI.
Can The Meningitis Vaccine Give You Meningitis?
In some studies published on NCBI, there is some evidence to show that the vaccine can cause adverse side effects such as Guillain-Barre syndrome which is a condition that occurs after the administration of the vaccine causes weakness in the body and affects the nervous system. There are also a few cases of headaches, sclerosis, anaphylaxis. These cases are however extremely rare. Nevertheless, it is apparent that there are no reports of the vaccine causing meningitis.
Can You Get The Meningitis Vaccine Twice?
The vaccine should be administered after every five years; however, according to CDC in adolescents, two types of meningococcal vaccines can be administered at the same time but in different locations on the body.
Can You Get Meningitis From Flu Shot?
The flu vaccine does come with an array of side effects such as headaches, rash, fever, nausea, fatigue, joint pain, and irritability. Some of these symptoms are quite similar to those of meningitis but are really a way in which the body develops immunity. There are, however, very rare cases where meningoencephalitis has been listed as an adverse effect after an influenza vaccine.
Apart from vaccines, it is important to take measures that help protect people from acquiring this infection. One of those ways is always ensuring that crowded areas are well ventilated since the most common mode of infection with meningitis is through the air.