Bacterial Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The cause of this inflammation is infection with either bacteria or viruses.

Meningitis caused by a bacterial infection (sometimes called spinal meningitis) is one of the most serious types, sometimes leading to permanent brain damage or even death. Bacterial meningitis is most commonly caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal meningitis), Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae serotype b (H. flu meningitis). These bacteria are carried in the upper back part of the throat (called the nasopharynx) of an infected person and are spread either through the air (when the person coughs or sneezes organisms into the air) or by direct contact with secretions from the nasopharynx of the infected person. However, transmission usually occurs only after very close contact with the infected person.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include sudden onset of fever, headache, neck pain or stiffness, vomiting (often without abdominal complaints), and irritability. These symptoms may quickly progress to decreased consciousness (difficulty in being aroused), convulsions, and death. For this reason, if any child displays symptoms of possible meningitis, he or she should receive medical care immediately.

Meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenza serotype b (Hib) can be prevented with Hib vaccine, which is part of routine childhood immunizations. Some cases of meningococcal meningitis can also be prevented by vaccine. However, this vaccine is not used routinely, and usually only during outbreaks or in high risk children.

Children with bacterial meningitis are almost always hospitalized. Providers are often told only that the child has meningitis and may not know the exact type.

If a child or adult in your child care facility is diagnosed with bacterial meningitis: would like to thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their contributors for this information in striving to make daycare and childcare a more productive and efficient service.

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