When bacteria in the bloodstream or a virus in the body finds its way to the brain and spinal cord, the membranes that protect it become inflamed. This swelling leads to a headache, sore, stiff neck, and fever. There are different infections that can cause meningitis and they can require totally different treatments. It is important to know which type of infection is causing the meningitis before deciding on a treatment. Besides infection or a virus, meningitis can be caused by an allergy to certain drugs, inflammatory diseases, and even some types of cancer.
As the most common form of meningitis in the US, viral meningitis is not as dangerous as other forms. The symptoms are milder, and it can even go away without any treatment. Early fall or late Summer are the most common times for meningitis viruses to affect people. Herpes, HIV, mumps and West Nile can cause viral meningitis.
When bacteria in the bloodstream reaches the brain or the spinal cord or invades the meninges through the sinus or an ear infection, it is known as bacterial meningitis. There are different bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis:
- Listeria – this mostly affects people with weaker immune systems. Pregnant women, elderly, and newborn babies are the highest risk factor. It can be found in soft cheese and lunch meats. It is extremely dangerous while pregnant.
- Meningococcus – This is a highly contagious form of meningitis and it most commonly is found in teenagers. Vaccines can protect against this form.
- Haemophilus – Vaccines have hugely reduced the number of people affected by this type of bacterial meningitis though it used to be the most common form in young children in America.
- Pneumococcus – This type of bacterial meningitis is found across all age groups but people can be protected against this strain through vaccination.
This type of meningitis can become chronic meningitis and can become fatal if not treated. Those with poor immune systems or immune deficiency diseases are most prone to contracting it.
While the symptoms will mostly be the same as any other type of meningitis, chronic meningitis can take several weeks to fully develop. Fungi invade the spinal cord and brain membranes and cause swelling and damage.
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