Bacterial Meningitis

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What Is It?

Bacterial meningitis is the inflammation and infection of the brain and spinal cord`s fluid. It is one of the many forms of meningococcal disease. While infants and adolescents are high at risk, we are seeing a high prevalence in young adults, especially college students, who are living in dorms. It is recommended to get vaccinated between the ages of 11-18, and to those going to parts of the world where meningitis is common.

Bacterial Meningitis. (2014, April 1). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

Where It All Started

In 1887, scientist identified the bacteria neisseria meningitidis, is the main cause to bacterial meningitis. While there had been reports dating back to the early 19th century, the first documented epidemic was in Sub Saharan Africa. In the 20th century, 90% of cases ended in death until the 40`s when it was discovered that penicillin helps symptoms. In the late 90`s, the Hemophilius vaccine lead to the drop in mortality and has lead to the evolution of five different vaccines available to address the many forms of meningococcal.

Bacterial Meningitis. (2014, April 1). Retrieved October 8, 2015.


Bacterial meningitis is extremely dangerous. It can be spread through contact and respiratory activities like coughing or kissing or living with the person who has the bacteria for a certain length of time. In between the years 2003-2007, there were 500 deaths out of 4,100 cases in the United States alone. Age, community setting, medical conditions and travel are all factors that increase the risk of contracting bacterial meningitis.

Meningitis Vaccines and Immunization Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis typically occur 3-7 days after being exposed and appear very quickly or after a couple of days. These flu like symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Mental confusion
If diagnosed early enough, proper antibiotics will help sickness but left untreated it will result in death.

Bacterial Meningitis. (2014, April 1). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

The Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis

Complications of Bacterial Meningitis

Depending on how long the individual had meningitis the severity of complications may vary.

There is a very small time table for when treatment through antibiotics will be enough which is why vaccines and early diagnosis are critical for treating bacterial meningitis

The most sever complications besides death include:

  • Permanent neurological damage
  • Death
  • Seizures

Other complications of meningitis can include:
  • brain damage
  • hearing loss
  • kidney failure
  • learning disabilities
  • shock

Vaccinations and early diagnosis are essential in avoiding complications that arise from bacterial meningitis.
  • In industrialized countries, 10-12% of bacterial meningitis cases result in death while 20% of meningitis survivors suffer brain damage, kidney failure or one of the other complications
  • 3/100,000 people are diagnosed with bacterial meningitis in the U.S.

Meningitis Vaccines and Immunization Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

Meningitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

Possible Control Measures for Bacterial Meningitis

In order to control outbreaks of meningitis, vaccines are crucial for any public health prevention plan to be successful. There are several different bacteria that cause meningitis and there are 4 different vaccines available in the U.S.. The two most successful MPSV4 and MCV4 will help protect against 70% of bacterial meningitis.

In order to protect the community and control the rates of bacterial meningitis we need to vaccinate the following populations:

  • 11-18 year old
  • those traveling to areas where meningitis is still present (like Sub-Sahara Africa)
  • Anyone who has been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis even if they show no symptoms
  • Groups in community living (i.e. college students, military recruits) and monitoring cases of meningitis

While cases of Meningitis have been closely monitored and controlled, people living in Africa sill have little access to healthcare and vaccines that can prevent bacterial meningitis. Since 1987, there have been over 1 million reports of meningitis in Sub-Sahara Africa alone. In 2009, there was an epidemic of 80,000 cases.

Meningitis Vaccine Project: Epidemics in Africa. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2015.