While the cold season is gaining strength, the temperature regime is quite gentle, and for many of us this is a reason to postpone the need to wear a hat, which is often prickly, electrifies hair and negates any styling. It is difficult not to be afraid of reckoning later for your frivolity, because from childhood we are told: “Put on a hat, otherwise you will get sick.” And worst of all, when, to persuade, they are frightened of the dire consequences of meningitis. Is it really so easy to protect yourself from this disease, or is it just an annoying myth? Why does meningitis develop at all, who can face it, and why shouldn’t treatment be delayed? We asked these questions to an expert.
infectious disease specialist, pediatrician
Many people are pretty well aware of how dangerous meningitis is and what it can lead to. But understanding how the disease works and what its nature is, is less common, which feeds some of the misconceptions about meningitis. In fact, most often it is an infectious disease in which foreign microorganisms enter the membranes of the brain and spinal cord. There they multiply, which causes tissue inflammation and characteristic symptoms of the disease. First, the pathogen enters the nasopharynx, from there it enters the bloodstream, spreads throughout the body and eventually reaches the meninges. So you can breathe out: whether you wear a hat in cold weather or not, this has nothing to do with the risk of illness.
Meningitis can be very different, but viral and bacterial forms are common in Russia. In more rare cases, fungi and parasites can become pathogens , or meningitis will not provoke an infection at all . The culprits of viral meningitis are most often enteroviruses, but others, including the influenza virus, can lead to this complication. Outbreaks of viral meningitis are more often recorded in summer and early autumn. You can catch the corresponding virus by swimming in reservoirs or pools where sanitary standards have been neglected, as well as through touch and airborne droplets.
In bacterial meningitis seasonality does not exist, and the disease is caused by meningococcus , pneumococcus and Haemophilus influenzae type Bed and . Such meningitis spreads through carriers: it is transmitted in the same ways as viral, either from older children (and children under two years of age are most susceptible to meningitis), or from adult adult carriers in whom the infection does not manifest itself. If the viral forms proceed relatively easily and usually end favorably, then bacterial meningitis manifests itself much more aggressively, the patient needs resuscitation assistance. Such meningitis can be fatal (which happens, according to some sources , in 10% of cases, and for pneumococcal – and in 30%). Moreover, a person can literally “burn out” in a few hours, so at the first suspicion it is necessary to act quickly and not hesitate to call a doctor.
It is, in general, easy to suspect meningitis by pronounced, specific symptoms. The patient suffers from severe headache, which does not go away from taking painkillers. It is accompanied by photophobia, high fever, which is not knocked down by antipyretics, it becomes difficult to tilt the neck. Sometimes drowsiness and disturbances of consciousness are also noted. In some cases, these symptoms are also accompanied by seizures, vomiting, and skin rashes.
Children under 3 months of age are
70 times more likely to catch a bacterial infection that causes meningitis than adults
With such a picture, it is quite difficult to miss meningitis, but the problem is that children often get meningitis. And the younger the child, the more vulnerable he is to the disease and the more dangerous it is. For example, children under three months old are 70 times more likely to catch a bacterial infection that causes meningitis than adults. But diagnosing a disease in a newborn is much more difficult, and a high temperature does not always indicate a problem. It is worth paying attention to drowsiness, refusal to eat, difficulty breathing, and skin rashes. By the way, to check if the spots on the body speak of meningitis, they lightly press on them with an ordinary glass – if they do not turn pale from the pressure, you should immediately consult a doctor.
Adults are also susceptible to disease. The risk group includes people over 65 (at this age, some types of meningitis are more common), as well as first-year students living in dormitories, military recruits and those who have been in closed groups for a long time. Outbreaks of bacterial meningitis in this case often occur due to crowding, close contact of people and under the influence of stress, which weakens the body as a whole. It should not be forgotten that meningitis can still be secondary, that is, develop against the background of other diseases, severe bacterial infections. For example, in the form of complications of otitis media or sinusitis, if treatment is started out of time. Or as a complication of tuberculosis in adults or children who are not vaccinated with BCG . In any case, a patient with meningitis is admitted to a hospital. He will undergo a lumbar puncture to collect cerebrospinal fluid for analysis. This will allow an accurate diagnosis to be made; puncture is the most reliable method for diagnosing meningitis, other methods are rather auxiliary.
Recovery from viral meningitis takes about two weeks on average. But how long it will take to improve health after the bacterial form depends on the characteristics of the organism and on the severity of the disease. In addition, unlike viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis often leads to serious consequences. Some children may develop hearing loss after the disease . This is quite common after pneumococcal and hemophilic meningitis. Epileptic manifestations (convulsions), various degrees of damage to the nervous system are not excluded – from rather mild ones like fatigue, headache and absent-mindedness to serious changes in behavior and learning ability. Viral meningitis rarely leaves serious consequences, although seizures can occur after it. In this matter, everything depends on the age of the patient, on the aggressiveness of the pathogen, on how soon the disease was discovered. Even with timely and complete treatment (including resuscitation) for some types of meningitis, complete recovery occurs in less than 50% of cases – that is, more than half of the children have some kind of residual defects.
It is impossible to predict the development of meningitis, but it is worth trying to protect yourself from it. The most effective prevention is vaccination. Although not all types of disease are vaccines, purulent meningitis in children, for example, can be prevented today. Within the framework of the National Vaccination Calendar in Russia, from the age of nine months, they are vaccinated against meningococcal infection (although it is believed that such vaccines can be administered earlier), against hemophilus influenza B infection – from three months, and since 2015 , children from two months of age are vaccinated against pneumococcal infections. Theoretically, it is still possible to inoculate the bacteria that cause purulent meningitis. But this method of “prevention” is much more difficult, if only because not everyone will find the strength to conscientiously monitor the regularity of analyzes, and the monetary aspect should not be written off. Vaccination in this sense is much simpler and cheaper, and, as the world practice shows (for example, in the USA ), the frequency of the same hemophilic meningitis is met by specialists abroad in a much smaller quantity.