Patients who have meningitis have an inflammation of the meninges—the covering of the spinal cord and brain. The different types of meningitis include bacterial meningitis and viral meningitis, though some patients have other types of meningitis, such as one caused by a fungal infection. Diagnosing the type of meningitis and treating it is imperative, as several types of meningitis can cause complications, such as neurological damage.
The treatment for meningitis depends on the type. For example, with viral meningitis, patients may need to drink fluids, get plenty of rest and use over-the-counter pain medication if they have aches or a fever. The MayoClinic.com noted that in many cases, viral meningitis clears up without a specific therapeutic treatment within one to two weeks. If it is a severe case of viral meningitis, hospitalization may be needed. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke added that to reduce brain inflammation, patients may take corticosteroids; doctors may prescribe patients an anticonvulsant to prevent seizures from occurring.
With bacterial meningitis, patients need antibiotics for the specific type of bacterium that caused the infection. Some patients may need the antibiotics to be administered intravenously. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke stated that giving bacterial meningitis patients the right antibiotic can reduce the risk of death to below 15 percent. Patients may require additional treatment if they have other issues, such as brain swelling or dehydration. The MayoClinic.com added that drainage may be required in cases of infected sinuses or fluid that has build up between the skull and the meninges.
With fungal meningitis, patients receive medications administered intravenously; the MayoClinic.com noted that this type of treatment may be delayed until a laboratory test can determine that a fungus caused the inflammation, as the treatment had serious side effects.
Steps can be taken to prevent meningitis. For example, good hygiene can help prevent the disease—this includes covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands. Several vaccinations are available for specific types of bacterial meningitis. One such vaccination is the haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, which children get as part of their recommended vaccinations in the United States. The National Center for Immunization and pointed out that before the 1990s, Hib was the top cause of bacterial meningitis. Another vaccination given as part of the recommended vaccinations in the United States is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV7. Other meningitis vaccines include the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, or MCV4, and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, or PPSV.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Meningitis and Encephalitis Fact Sheet. 2011. Web. 27 April 2011
Mayo Clinic Staff. Meningitis: Prevention. MayoClinic.com, 2010. Web. 27 April 2011
Mayo Clinic Staff. Meningitis: Treatments and Drugs. MayoClinic.com, 2010. Web. 27 April 2011
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Meningitis: Questions and Answers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. Web. 27 April 2011