5 Types of Meningitis and Tips For Prevention
- Posted on: Apr 24 2019
World Meningitis Day is April 24, and believe it or not, there are actually five types of meningitis! When most people think of meningitis, it’s usually bacterial and viral. However, there are also three additional types including fungal, parasitic, and non-infectious meningitis. In this post we’re going to break down all five types of meningitis and give you some important tips for prevention that may help you avoid them altogether.
Before we discuss the five types of meningitis, you might be wondering how it’s diagnosed. A few things a doctor may use to diagnose meningitis include blood cultures, imaging of the brain (CT scan or an MRI), and lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap).
The 5 Types of Meningitis
The most common signs and symptoms of meningitis include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, lack of appetite, lack of energy, and an altered mental state. While the symptoms of all 5 types of meningitis are similar, the strains do have subtle differences.
Bacterial meningitis is the strain that your mother most likely warned you about. The main reason people become nervous when bacterial meningitis is present is that it can be very serious, and even deadly. The CDC says that death can occur in as little as a few hours, or up to 24 hours later after a patient comes down with a case of bacterial meningitis.
The good news is that most people recover from it after being treated with antibiotics. However in some cases, even after recovery, permanent disabilities can remain including hearing loss, learning disabilities, and even brain damage.
This strain often spreads through coughing or sneezing on someone while in close contact. It can also be spread through giving birth (passing from mother to child), kissing, and by eating food that was prepared by someone who didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Not appetizing at all!
Viral meningitis is a strain caused by miscellaneous viruses such as measles, mumps, chicken pox, influenza, etc… Most people who have an otherwise normal immune system that come down with viral meningitis will usually get better on their own without medical intervention.
Though there are vaccines to prevent some kinds of viral meningitis, not every type is preventable. This strain usually spreads through close personal contact with someone that has viral meningitis.
This is the most common type of meningitis but in many cases, it’s not life-threatening. However, if you have a weakened immune system and contract it, it’s imperative you seek medical care. While medical treatment can’t cure viral meningitis, your doctor may be able to help you boost your immune system as your body works to fight the infection.
There are no vaccines for fungal meningitis, but luckily fungal meningitis is very rare. This strain is typically caused by direct exposure to certain types of fungi. However, people can also get it by inhaling fungal spores from the environment (dependent upon where in the world they are).
According to the CDC, “people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes, cancer, or HIV, are at higher risk of fungal meningitis.” Still, this form of meningitis isn’t spread from person to person.
“Fungal meningitis can develop after a fungus spreads through the bloodstream from somewhere else in the body to the brain or spinal cord or from an infection next to the brain or spinal cord.”
Various parasites can cause parasitic meningitis or can affect the brain or nervous system in other ways. All things considered, parasitic meningitis is much less common than both viral and bacterial meningitis.
Usually, the parasites that cause parasitic meningitis are not spread from one person to another. Instead, they get infected when a person ingests something that has the infectious form or stage of the parasite.
When it’s suspected that you have parasitic meningitis, you’ll be asked about your travel history, along with many other questions to determine which parasite may have caused your type of meningitis. Only once your doctor knows which parasite is causing the problem can the symptoms and infection be treated properly.
According to Merck Manual, “Noninfectious meningitis is inflammation of the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and of the fluid-filled space between the meninges (subarachnoid space) when it is caused by disorders that are not infections or by drugs or vaccines.”
The main causes of non-infectious meningitis are systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), cancers, head injury, brain surgery, and certain drugs. Therefore, this type of meningitis is not spread from person to person. Antibiotics may be required to treat it, and the severity of the infection will vary based on the medical history of the patient.
Tips For Prevention of Meningitis
According to the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations, “The best way to prevent bacterial meningitis is through vaccination.” However, prevention of this and other strains of meningitis may also be possible by:
- Washing your hands frequently – especially after sneezing, using the bathroom, or touching uncooked/raw foods.
- Being mindful of your environment
- For example, if you will be exposed to fungal elements such as bird droppings and dust, you are at a higher risk for fungal meningitis
- Depending on where you will be, wearing face masks such as the ones you see your doctor or nurse wearing during medical procedures may be beneficial
- Being vaccinated for Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) and chickenpox. Unvaccinated, you could be further at risk for viral meningitis as some strains of this ailment are caused by those viruses
- Not sharing personal items such as food, cigarettes, toothbrushes, lipstick, or even towels
- Keeping your distance If someone is sick, especially if you don’t know what they have
- Boosting your immune system by consuming a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins
- It may also be beneficial to take vitamin C supplements for further immunity
- Get regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and flush your system with plenty of water as well
- As always, discuss diet, fitness and supplement changes with your doctor
- Seeking medical care for colds that are accompanied by a high fever, vomiting, rashes, inability to eat or drink, and other extreme symptoms. Though it may not be meningitis, should your symptoms be severe, it could be something serious that needs medical attention
As always, if you find yourself in need of diagnostic imaging, reach out to our friendly staff with any questions and schedule your appointment!