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Understanding Meningitis

Aug 17, 2007
When you hear the word meningitis on the evening news, you will more than likely wonder what in the world it is, if it is contagious, and what you can do to protect your children against it.

First, there are different types of meningitis and different causes for the different types. In most cases, meningitis occurs as a complication brought on from an infection in the bloodstream, which is usually caused by a virus. Meningitis causes inflammation or irritation of a portion of the brain.

Meningitis is a rare disease, our brains have what is called a blood-brain barrier that protects are brain for contamination by the blood. However, some infections can trick the barrier, which then decreases its ability to work properly. Once the barrier is not working to keep out the contaminated blood, it can infect the fluid around the brain. This causes white blood cells to react to fight off the infection. Once this occurs it can cause increased inflammation, which will lead to swelling, thus will not only proper blood flow to the brain. The vital areas of the brain will not be able to function normally.

Symptoms of meningitis include a severe headache that will not go away, stiffness in the neck, stiffness in the upper back, pain in one or both eyes, or an aversion to light, nausea, or the feeling of an upset stomach, vomiting, achy body, fever, sleepy feeling, or the feeling that you just cannot wake up completely, confusion, or a feeling of just not being with it.

Meningitis can be caused from a direct spread of a severe infection such as an ear infection or sinus infection. In some cases, meningitis is noted after head trauma or an injury to the head or brain.

Bacterial meningitis is caused from different types of bacteria and viral meningitis can be from a complication of chickenpox. Today, most children are now vaccinated against chickenpox therefore this can rule out this type of meningitis in most cases.

Children over the age of two, can also receive a vaccination called HIB that helps to fight against meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is very contagious. This means that it can pass from one infected person to another by way of sneezing, coughing, sharing eating utensils or cups, or when you kiss someone.

The best prevention against meningitis is to, of course, be vaccinated if at all possible. Other ways to help is by in ways of prevention such as washing your hands often.
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