by Jasmine Miftahof


Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is found all across the world, but this disease's hot spot is the meningitis belt in West Africa. Each year, meningitis infects around 2,600 people in the U.S. alone. There are four forms of meningitis: fungal, bacterial, viral, and parasitic.
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A diagram of the meninges, the three membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.


Transmission of Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is the most common form of meningitis. It is transmitted by a group of enteroviruses.

Transmission of Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is usually transmitted when bacteria enter the bloodstream and move the the spinal cord and brain. In rare cases, this type of meningitis can be caused by an ear or sinus infection, a skull fracture, or after some types of surgeries. Some strains of diseases that cause bacterial meningitis are:

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Neisseria meningitidis

Haemophilus influenzae

Listeria monocytogenes

Transmission of Fungal Meningitis

Fungal meningitis is relatively uncommon and causes chronic meningitis. This form of meningitis isn't contagious. Some fungal meningitis cases were associated with contaminated medication injected into the spine for back and neck pain. The most common type of fungal meningitis is cryptococcal meningitis.

Transmission of Parasitic Meningitis

Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that causes parasitic meningitis. It is found in some bodies of freshwater (such as lakes or rivers), or in swimming pools that are poorly managed. This parasite thrives at temperatures up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It makes its way into the body through the nose.
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Naegleria fowleri under a microscope.

Similar Diseases

Some similar diseases that share the same symptoms with meningitis are:


Giant Cell Arteritis

Ruptured Cell Aneurysm


Sudden high fever, serious frequent headaches with nausea or vomiting, light sensitivity, stiff neck, difficulty concentrating, skin rash (often seen in meningococcal meningitis), difficulty waking up, sleepiness, and not wanting to eat or drink may indicate a case of meningitis. To affirm the diagnosis, an extraction of Cerebrospinal Fluid using the lumbar puncture method or an extraction of blood is tested for meningitis.


Treatment of Bacterial Meningitis

To treat bacterial meningitis, a series of intravenous antibiotics and cortisone medications are necessary, but the combination depends on the bacteria causing the infection. The infected sinuses or mastoids may have to be drained as well.
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Mastoids are boxed.

Treatment of Viral Meningitis

Antibiotics can't cure viral meningitis, but it is treated with bed rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter pain medications.

Treatment of Fungal Meningitis

The only treatment for fungal meningitis are anti fungal medications, but they can have serious side effects.

Treatment of Parasitic Meningitis

Several drugs are effective, but most are unclear on their potency to fight Naegleria fowleri due to the fact that most cases have been lethal, even when patients have taken the drug.


Meningitis mainly affects people ages 1-30. Five to ten percent of victims die 24-48 hours after symptoms begin. However, if left untreated, up to 50 percent of victims die. From 1991 to 2010, about one million meningitis cases were reported in the African meningitis belt countries. Brain damage, hearing loss, or a learning disability typically result in 10-20 percent of survivors.


As for preventing nearly any disease, proper hygiene is crucial. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay healthy.


Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7)

Haemophilus influenzae type b and Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y vaccine (Hib-MenCY)

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)


Meningitis in Iowa

There have been 10 cases of meningitis in 2010, 14 in 2011, 2 in 2012, and 1 in 2013. These cases have been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The Meningitis Belt

The meningitis belt consists of eighteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa. There are 450 million people at risk of developing meningitis. South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, and Chad are at highest threat of spreading the disease. MenAfriVac is a new vaccine initiated for these hyper endemic countries to stop meningitis from circulating.
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People lining up to receive the MenAfriVac shot in Burkina Faso.


MenAfriVac is developed for use in sub-Saharan Africa. This vaccine protects people ages 1-29, and costs under $0.50 per dose. MenAfriVac was made by PATH, MVP, and WHO. You can use this vaccine at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore withstanding the harsh African heat. Since its launch in 2010, Medicins sans Frontieres, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF, and the WHO have vaccinated more than 150 million individuals, cutting cases to almost zero.

Outbreaks in the U.S.A.

In 2013, there were eight cases of bacterial meningitis at Princeton, four cases at the University of California, and death of a student at Georgetown University due to a case of meningitis. In college, meningitis most often spreads because of cramped living quarters, crowded classrooms, and large parties.


The National Meningitis Association creates awareness programs for communities to be educated on the effects of meningitis.

M.O.M.s (Moms on Meningitis) are a team of over 50 moms who have lost their children to meningitis.

T.E.A.M. (Together Educating Against Meningitis) are meningococcal disease survivors.

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Even though complex diseases may disrupt or normal lifestyles, with medicine and technology, our understanding of these microorganisms will expand for the better.


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