By: Grace Brusegaard

What Causes Meningitis?

Meningitis can either be caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. The bacterial infection happens when bacteria gets into your blood stream and travels to your brain. A viral infection can be caused by a number of viruses and a fungal infection causes chronic meningitis which is not infectious. Another cause is that people in foreign countries can't get the vaccine and their environment is full of bacteria so they're more likely to get Meningitis. Also in some cases by getting the West Nile virus it can turn into Meningitis.

How is Meningitis transmitted?

Meningitis is transmitted by contact and bodily fluids such as coughing, sneezing, and sharing eating or drinking utensils. If you have or had a weak immune system you're at a higher risk to catch it. Plus if you're in a community like school or dorms or a small city, bacteria can spread quickly. Viral Meningitis isn't transmitted you just get it if you get a certain virus.

What are the symptoms for Meningitis?

The symptoms of Meningitis arrive quickly, for example, you might all of a sudden get a high fever.

  • Terrible headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Be confused or have trouble focusing
  • Have seizures
  • Be sensitive to light
  • Have trouble waking up and/or being very tired
  • You might have a loss of appetite or not want to drink
  • If you have Mennigococcal Meningitis you could get a rash

What organ/organ systems are effected by having Meningitis?

A major organ that is effected by having Meningitis is your brain. The membranes that surround your brain and spine get inflamed/swollen which set off the symptoms of Meningitis.

How do you test for Meningitis?

To test for Meningitis doctors can do a variety of things. They can either do a spinal tap, blood test , X-Ray or CT. A spinal tap is when they stick a needle in your back that drains some fluid from your spinal fluid which is the same as your brain fluid. An X-Ray or CT of your brain can show if there's inflammation which would show if you have Meningitis. A blood test can show if there's bacteria in your blood.

What is the treatment/cure for Meningitis?

There is no cure for Meningitis but there is a treatment for some types of Meningitis. For bacterial Meningitis there are antibiotics that include cortisone and penicillin. For viral Meningitis you just have to get a lot of rest, fluids and pain medications for any pain or fever. If you don't catch it right away sometimes the antibiotics won't work.

How do you prevent Meningitis and what are the complications if not treated right away?

To prevent any form of Meningitis you should wash your hands, practice good hygiene, be healthy: rest, eat, drink water, exercise, etc. Whenever you're sneezing or coughing you need to cover your mouth. Plus getting the vaccination will help prevent it and if your pregnant you need to watch what you eat. Some complications that will occur if you don't catch soon enough are brain damage: deaf, trouble remembering,learning disabilities, seizures, kidney failure, shock or death.

What are the different forms of Meningitis?

One form of Meningitis is Meningococcal Meningitis which is caused by a bacteria that is commonly found throughout the world. Another form is Pneumococcal Meningitis which is caused by a bacteria that is in the back of your throat and nose that can become meningitis. Hib Meningitis was common and it affected children under the age of five but today it is very rare. Hib Meningitis is also carried in the back of your throat and nose and the bacteria is only harmful if it becomes into Meningitis. Bacterial Meningitis is caused by bacteria and Viral Meningitis is caused by a virus.

What are some statistics/facts about Meningitis?

Here is a list of some statistics or facts about Meningitis.

  • 10% of the people in the world that carry Meningitis bacteria never actually develop Meningitis.
  • 4,100 cases of Meningitis were reported last year and of those cases there was 500 deaths.
  • Meningitis used to kill 70% of the people that got infected.

Where is Meningitis the most common?

Meningitis is most common in the Meningitis belt which an area in Sub-Saharan Africa that covers from western Mali to Eastern Ethiopia. In that area the most cases occur in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria where they have extreme climates. Meningitis usually happens regularly in 8-12 year cycles. Also type W-13 Meningitis was an issue in the spring of 2000 not only in Africa but also in Saudia Arabia, U.S, France and United Kingdom.


What was the test back then compared to now?

Today the test for Meningitis is a lumbar puncture, blood test, X-ray or CT. A while ago they didn't even have a test but then they did do lumbar punctures. When they didn't have a test for it they just knew that certain symptoms made up a mysterious disease that they were trying to find out. It was pretty deadly until the 20th century and today some types of Meningitis have evolved and don't respond to treatment.

Epidemics over the years

Epidemics of Meningitis started in the 1800s but people just knew it by certain symptoms that people would die from. In 1806 there was nine cases in Massachusetts and during 1806-1816 outbreaks occurred in the U.S and New England. During 1854-1861 4,100 people died in Sweden. Then during the 19th century doctors kept seeing the same symptoms and cases and thought that they were seeing a connection. An epidemic swept through a French colony in Chad during 1936-37 killing over 3,000 people. Which resulted that in between 1943-1951 over four percent of Chad's population was dead. Throughout the world cases were breaking out and doctors were still trying to figure out what it was. There were epidemics during the Civil war, World War l, World War ll and the Cold War. In 1996, in the Meningitis Belt an epidemic killed more than 16,000 people. During 1999, in Pontypridd, South Wales, and epidemic started at a school and out of thirteen cases three people died. Epidemics are still happening now, in the Summer of 2011, there was 113 cases of Viral Meningitis that were contracted from the West Nile Virus.

Diagnosis over the years

The first thing that Meningitis was thought to be caused by was a lack of a god. The Ancient Greeks then went inside the body and got a full description of each organ with someone who had Meningitis, which helped other doctors diagnose. After that Hippocrates was the first one to recognize the relation between the symptoms and results of a disease(which was Meningitis). Next, Galen, a Greek doctor, was the first to get a record of clear fluid that surrounds the lining of your brain. Other physicians then discovered that there's also fluid surrounding your spine but they didn't know that there was a connection. In 1825, Francois Magendie, realized that the fluid that surrounds your brain and spine are the same thing/connected. Finally in 1877 Meningitis was announced as an official disease and by 1891 Heinrich Quincke invented the spinal tap to test for Meningitis. Eventually in 1914 doctors made a treatment from horses blood, called Antiserum. That treatment didn't work great so in the mid 1930s they found that using Sulfonamides helped too. Finally in the 1990s they started regularly using Penicillin, which helped the most.

People in the past with Meningitis

Oscar Wilde, an Irish author, wrote plays lived from 1845-1900, contracted Meningitis in 1899. He started getting symptoms but they didn't what it was and there was no cure or treatment yet. He was sent home and at first he was getting better and one day he felt great so he went out to drink. The day after he got much worse and died on November 30th, 1990 but the doctors still don't know what type of Meningitis he died from.

Addie Joss, a pitcher for the Cleveland Bluebirds lived from 1880-1911. He was second in the world for ERA( earned run average) but during baseball season he started getting the symptoms of Meningitis and he had to quit. On April 13th he got a lumbar puncture to prove that he had Meningitis. There was still no treatment for it so on April 14th, 1911 he died.

Right now-Future

Today there is a vaccine for some types of Meningitis but in the future doctors hope to have a cure. They are researching bacteria and how to treat it and doing genetic research. They are trying to find all the facts and symptoms and anything that could help them find more about it. Meningitis can still be deadly but it has improved from the past.


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