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In the wake of the recent outbreak of meningitis in some states of Nigeria, here are few things you should know about the infection.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord. The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the “hallmark” signs and symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck. If you suspect that you or someone in your family has meningitis, seek medical care right away. Early treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications.
The signs and symptoms that may occur in anyone older than age of 2 include:
1. Sudden high fever
2. Severe headache that isn’t easily confused with other types of headache
3. Stiff neck
4. Vomiting or nausea with headache
5. Confusion or difficulty concentrating
6. Sleepiness or difficulty waking up
7. Sensitivity to light
8. Lack of interest in drinking and eating
9. Skin rash in some cases, such as in meningococcal meningitis
Meningitis usually results from a viral infection, but the cause may also be a bacterial infection. Less commonly, a fungal infection may cause meningitis. Because bacterial infections are the most serious and can be life-threatening, identifying the source of the infection is an important part of developing a treatment plan. In Nigeria, the current outbreak is a bacterial infection and it affects the spinal cord majorly.
The complications of meningitis can be severe. The longer you or your child has the disease without treatment, the greater the risk of seizures and permanent neurological damage, including: Hearing loss, Memory difficulty, Learning disabilities, Brain damage, Gait problems, Seizures, Kidney failure, Shock and Death.
Acute bacterial meningitis requires prompt treatment with intravenous antibiotics and, more recently, cortisone medications, to ensure recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as brain swelling and seizures. The antibiotic or combination of antibiotics that your doctor may choose depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Your doctor may recommend a broad-spectrum antibiotic until he or she can determine the exact cause of the meningitis. Infected sinuses or mastoids — the bones behind the outer ear that connect to the middle ear — may need to be drained.
Antibiotics can’t cure viral meningitis, and most cases improve on their own in several weeks. Treatment of mild cases of viral meningitis usually includes: Bed rest, Plenty of fluids, Over-the-counter pain medications to help reduce fever and relieve body aches.
If the cause of your meningitis is a herpes virus, an antiviral medication is available.
These steps can help prevent meningitis:
1. Wash your hands. Careful hand-washing is important to avoiding exposure to infectious agents. Teach your children to wash their hands often, especially before they eat and after using the toilet, spending time in a crowded public place or petting animals. Show them how to wash their hands vigorously, covering both the front and back of each hand with soap and rinsing thoroughly under running water.
2. Practice good hygiene. Don’t share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else. Teach children and teens to avoid sharing these items too.
3. Stay healthy. Maintain your immune system by getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
4. Cover your mouth. When you need to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose. If you’re pregnant, take care with food.