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Meningitis is the inflammation of  the meninges, which are tissues that cover the brain and the spinal cord. The meninges consist  of three membranes  - the durameter, arachnoid and piameter . The infection is usually caused by bacteria or virus, though in some cases it may be caused by fungi and cancer. It is an infectious disease and can be spread by contact with the infected person.

Many of  the persons who suffer from meningitis have a weak or undeveloped immune system. It is more common in children who are less than 5 years old and persons older than 55 years. Viral meningitis is the most common form of meningitis and is rarely fatal in persons with a normal immune system. Most persons recover from viral meningitis caused by eneteroviruses within 10 days. Bacterial meningitis is less common but is more fatal.

 

Once the microorganism from any infection enter the brain,  the body's defense mechanism cannot stop their growth quickly and the brain starts swelling.Symptoms of meningitis are sudden high fever (sometimes with chills), vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, drowsiness and intolerance to light and sound. About a third of  the patients may also suffer from seizures. The symptoms for bacterial and viral meningitis are similar.

 

 Since the virus or bacteria is spread by contact with the spit , mucus or saliva of an infected person, the patient is usually isolated. For viral infections, no medicine is available and the immune system will fight the bacteria. Since bacterial meningitis can be fatal, it is important to identify the bacteria correctly and start treatment early. Antibiotics are effective for treating bacterial meningitis, though the disease is sometimes fatal for elderly patients.

 

Vaccines for bacterial meningitis are available and should be taken before visiting places like Africa where meningitis is common. They are also included in the standard vaccines given to young children.

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