What is Meningitis?
The meninges are the protective membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is an infection of these membranes which can damage the nerves and the brain. It can be caused by bacteria or a virus.
Bacterial meningitis is treated as a medical emergency, and can cause severe brain damage and septicaemia if left untreated. There is no vaccine to prevent the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK.
Viral meningitis is the more common and less serious type of meningitis and does not lead to septicaemia.
How common is Meningitis?
In 2008 and 2009 in England and Wales, around 1,166 cases of meningitis were caused by bacterial meningitis. The number of cases has decreased in recent years because of a successful vaccination programme.
Bacterial meningitis is most common in children who are under five years old and in babies. It is also common among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years.
It is difficult to estimate the number of cases of viral meningitis because the symptoms are often so mild that they are mistaken for flu.
What are the symptoms of Meningitis?
Bacterial meningitis has many early warning signs, including pain in the muscles or joints, unusually cold hands and feet, and pale or blotchy skin and blue lips. If accompanied by a high temperature, any of these symptoms are enough to phone 999 immediately.
Early symptoms of bacterial meningitis include a severe headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and feeling unwell. Later symptoms include drowsiness, confusion, seizures, photophobia, a stiff neck, and a blotchy red rash.
Viral meningitis will cause mild flu-like symptoms like headaches, fever, not feeling well. More severe cases also include some of the later symptoms of bacterial meningitis.
How is Meningitis treated?
Bacterial meningitis requites hospital treatment, antibiotics, oxygen, intravenous fluids and steroids.
Severe viral meningitis will be treated with antibiotics. Mild viral meningitis will be treated at home with rest, painkillers and anti-sickness medication.
If you have not received treatment or advice, or suffered any symptoms in the past five years choose a moratorium product.