Meningitis Symptoms

Common, early meningitis symptoms are a cough, fever, headache, stiff neck, sore throat, and vomiting.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the thin tissue covering of the brain. When the meninges become inflamed they create pressure within the skull and many complex series of conditions typically occur.

Meningitis can be caused by infections of both bacteria and viruses. It is most common among infants and young children.

Three types of bacteria cause the majority of bacterial meningitis infections; Neisseria meningitidis, Listeria monocytogenes, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Both viral and bacterial meningitis may spread to the brain to cause a condition known as encephalitis (meningoencephalitis). Encephalitis causes a dangerous swelling of the brain and increase of pressure within the skull.

Meningitis symptoms:

  • fever
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • sore throat
  • vomiting
  • cough
  • sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • skin rash
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • seizures
  • high-pitched crying (in infants)
  • swelling of the skull (in infants)
  • irritability (in infants)
  • refusal to eat (in infants)
  • unresponsiveness (in infants)

Diagnosis is typically through physical examination and laboratory examination of cerebrospinal fluid, blood, urine, and/or mucus.

Treatment is typically started immediately with antibiotics, although the exact cause of the meningitis may not yet be known (awaiting results of the laboratory exam).

Rehydration therapy is also commonly required. Measures to reduce pressure within the skull may also be necessary.

Prevention can be achieved through administration of a vaccine for the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Isolation and quarantine of infected individuals is also effective.

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