Meningitis – Usually Mild, Sometimes Fatal

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. International travelers should discuss the dangers and prevention and treatment of this disease before departure.

What is meningitis?

This disease is an inflammation of the meninges, the membrane that covers and protects the brain and spinal cord. The bacterial strains of the disease are severe and can be fatal. Rarely this disease results from non-infectious causes. Meningitis vaccination is also a very important part of traveling. 

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How meningitis contagious?

It is a contagious disease but does not spread easily. It is transmitted through respiratory secretions, such as through kissing or coughing. Casual contact is not risky. However, family members, roommates, contact care may need antibiotics if they are in close contact with meningitis patients.

What are the symptoms?

The classic symptoms are fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and lethargy. Patients may also be tolerant to light and loud noises. General rash with raised small red and purple nodules can indicate the presence of meningococcal meningitis, the most deadly form of the disease.

Doctors have been trained in medical school to recognize the characteristics of this rash and take it as a warning that the patient's life in danger.

How is meningitis diagnosed?

The symptoms and physical examination often suggest disease. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by lumbar puncture when doctor’s aspiration of spinal fluid through a needle inserted into the back of the patient. Although this procedure sounds horrible, it was quickly done and well-tolerated. This fluid analysis can often determine the cause of this disease.

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