What Is Meningitis?

What Is Meningitis?

Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, can be caused by infection with a bacterium or virus.

There are two main types of meningitis:

Viral meningitis tends to appear in summer months and is generally much less severe. Most people recover fully. Initially, vague flu-like symptoms occur with fever and muscle aches.

Bacterial meningitis tends to be more severe, with a serious risk of complications and death. Any type of bacteria can cause it, but in Ireland the most common types are meningococcal and pneumococcal bacteria.

Symptoms

In bacterial meningitis, symptoms can develop rapidly, often within hours, whereas the symptoms of viral meningitis may take a couple of days to develop. If you are worried that someone has meningitis, or has a rash that doesn’t fade when you press a glass on it (the glass test), you must seek medical advise immediately.

  • Stiff body with jerky movements, or very floppy
  • Irritability, or dislike of being handled
  • A shrill cry or unusual moaning
  • Tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on head)
  • Refusal to feed
  • Pale blotchy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

Symptoms in adults and older children include:

  • A rash that doesn’t fade under pressure (try pressing a glass against the skin)
  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright light
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pains, stomach cramps and diarrhoea
  • Cold and pale hands and feet

DELAYS IN TREATMENT INCREASE THE RISK OF LONG-TERM DAMAGE OR DEATH. IF YOU SUSPECT MENINGITIS, GET URGENT MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY.