Meningitis is the swelling of the thin tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, called meninges. Anybody is at risk of getting meningitis, but usually common with people whose immune systems have difficulties in fighting infections. Meningitis is contagious and spread rapidly in crowded environments and therefore students who live in close proximity in school are highly at risk of contracting the infection. It is approximated that 75% of the victims of meningitis are babies, children, and teenagers. One in every ten people who suffer from this illness die.
The survivors however, suffer from serious problems deafness, brain damage and seizures. This happens because meningitis attacks the brain which is central in the body. Any injury to the body may cause the body to swell. This swelling is caused by extra blood flowing through this area to repair the injured cells. During meningitis, the brain cells are squeezed between the skull and the swollen regions giving rise to severe headache. Since it spreads rapidly, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention on suspecting the illness.
Early treatment is important because it helps in preventing future and serious problems, including death (Klosterman, pp11). Causes of Meningitis There are mainly two common types of meningitis: viral and bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is caused by the entry of a virus into the body either through the mouth or nose. The virus then travels to the brain. Adults and teenagers are more prone to this type of meningitis than bacterial meningitis. Those suffering from viral meningitis experience headache and neck pains and may recover fully without complications.
Viruses which live in feces spread easily when a person infected fails to wash his or her hands after going to the toilet. This virus might infect another person who engages into bodily contact with the infected person. These viruses are also present in the saliva and mucus of the infected person. As a result, this virus gets transmitted when the infected person sneezes, coughs or shares utensils. Mosquitoes inflected with these viruses can also cause meningitis by biting someone.
Other viruses infect the meninges when they come into close contact with the body inside the neurons. These viruses then travel along the neuron through to the brain or the spinal cord. These viruses cause damage to the meninges by attacking the cells and replicating themselves. As more and more viruses are replicated, the cell gets filled up to a point where its functionality is impaired and may eventually burst. This releases more viruses which invade other adjacent cells and continue with reproduction cycle and damaging cells.
This development causes inflammation, and thereby damaging the brain and the spinal cord. Fortunate enough, most people suffering from viral meningitis recover even without being hospitalized because the immune system fights and damages the viruses (Klosterman, pp11). Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can be deadly. It affects fewer people as compared to viral meningitis. There are two common types of bacterial meningitis: meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis. Bacteria responsible for these cases of meningitis are mostly found in the upper respiratory tract.
These bacteria are transmitted when infected person’s cough, sneezes or kisses. However, cannot survive outside the body cells for a long time and cannot therefore be contracted from swimming pools and water supplies. These bacteria can be carried by the body for months and when they overpower the body’s immune system and attack the meninges, meningitis results. Head damages and local infections such as otitis media and sinusitis can cause bacteria to spread to the meninges, and eventually causing bacterial meningitis (Schoenstadt, para 8).