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Read for more information about Meningitis

Loyola press release - February 22, 2006

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What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is infection and inflamation of the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord). Meningitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

What are the common agents that cause meningitis?

Viral meningitis - The most common but less serious form of meningitis. Enteroviruses are the most common viral cause of meningitis in the US. Coxsackie, herpes virus, arbovirus, measles and varicella are other common meningitis causing viruses.

Bacterial meningitis - An acute and dangerous form of the disease associated with classical symptoms. Common bacteria that cause meningitis depends on the age of the patient. Infants are commonly affected by Streptococcus pneumonia, Listeria, E. coli and Hemophilus influenzae. Meningococcus (Neisseria meningitidis) is the commonest causative in adolescents and middle aged individuals, while Streptococcus pneumonia is again the most common causative bacterial organism causing meningitis in the elderly. Mycobacterium are also a causative of meningitis.

What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis?

Although the signs and symptoms of meningitis are dependant on the agent and the age of the patient, most cases manifest with high fever, headaches, and a stiff neck. These primary symptoms can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia, confusion and irritability.

Incubation Period

The incubation period depends on the causative agent. For example the incubation period of meningococcal meningitis is 2-10 days while the incubation for hemophilus meningitis is much shorter ranging from 2-4 days. However the range of incubation for most organisms causing meningitis is 2 days to 2 weeks.

Most cases of meningitis result from infections that are contagious. The infectious agents usually spread from person to person in tiny drops of fluid from the throat and nose of someone who is infected. (This could be a person with either meningitis or, more likely, the common infection caused by that germ.) The drops may become airborne when the person coughs, laughs, talks, or sneezes. They then can infect others when people breathe them in or touch the drops and then touch their own noses or mouths.

Sharing food, drinking glasses, eating utensils, tissues, or towels may all transmit the infections as well. Some infectious organisms can spread through a person's stool, and someone who comes in contact with the stool - such as a child in day care - may contract the infection.

The infections most often spread between people who are in close contact, such as those who live together or people who are exposed by kissing or sharing eating utensils. Casual contact at school or work with someone who has one of these infections usually will not transmit the infectious agent.

It is important to remember that just because someone becomes infected with a particular bacterium or virus does not automatically mean that person will get meningitis. In most cases, the microorganism will simply cause a run-of-the-mill respiratory or gastrointestinal infection. In some instances, people may carry one of the germs that can cause meningitis without becoming ill at all. Even though they have no symptoms of disease, they can still spread the germ, however.

Student Health Service

The department is providing the antiobiotic (Cipro) to any student who believes that they have been exposed. Should the student experience any of the above symptoms, they are asked to come to Student Health Service and see the clinic physician.

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