So, what is meningitis?

I’ve told stories of people who have had meningitis over and over and every story is different, I’ve written signs and symptoms, but I still get asked often, so what actually IS meningitis?

I get it, its confusing, what is it? How did they get it? I still remember walking (running) into the hospital and having Chris’s dad tell me they think he has meningitis and thinking what? How? Wait what? What is that? Is he going to be okay? Can that kill him? Is it deadly? Its deadly isn’t it?! Its one of those moments where time slows down and you cant tell if you’re breathing anymore. I have actually written a similar blog but they do get lost as time goes by, so I like to recap often to keep the information fresh and locked in your head. You can read the similar blog here (this is what meningitis does to the brain and body)

Then I remember reading the pamphlet of signs and symptoms and going, how did I not see it sooner? I felt so stupid! But how could I have known? All I knew is that I had a vaccination for it once or something. But the vaccination for meningococcal disease isn’t in the regular vaccination schedule, you have to ask for it, and pay for it yourself. And it’s only been around for a short amount of time too. A lot of people I talk to know about the same as I did, you get vaccinated for some types and that’s that. But something this serious should be more well known. So I’m going to talk it till I’m blue in the face, so everyone around me knows what to look out for. So I’ll start here:

So, what exactly is meningitis?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by an infection, more specifically, meningitis is swelling of the meninges, which are the protective coating surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

This swelling causes a headache and neck pain like nothing you have ever felt (according to those who have had it) and the swelling makes it difficult to touch your chin to your chest. This is something I want everyone to know, if you can’t get your chin to chest, seek medical help.

Here’s a quick run down of some signs and symptoms:

Headache

Stiff and sore neck and back

Vomiting

Confusion

Fever

Light or sound aversions

Memory loss

Rash (last to show)

What are the types of infections that cause meningitis?

Bacterial

Viral

Parasitic

Fungal

Non infectious – includes things such as surgery.

These all branch off into having even more specific types.

My husband, Chris had bacterial meningitis, meningococcus, also known as MenB, and meningococcal disease. specifically known as Neisseria meningitidis in medical terms. About 10% of adults are carriers of this type of meningitis, it sits at the back of their throat and nose, and is transmitted through bodily fluids, but doesn’t live very long outside the body. This is why it is caught by coughing, sneezing, or kissing. 10% of cases end in death, rising to 15% after 12 hours. Many sufferers end up with lasting effects such as limb loss, brain injury, cognitive function issues, and memory loss. Meningococcal disease carries a risk of developing sepsis which is a rare, but extremely deadly form of blood poisoning. Septicemia has a 50% mortality rate within afew hours of contraction. Sepsis is the cause of the purple rash during meningitis that doesn’t blanch (turn white) under a glass.

I will not say this lightly. Both meningitis, and septicemia are medical emergencies. If suspected get help immediately. Call for an ambulance.

It takes 48-72 hours for a culture to test what type of meningitis it is, and up to a week for the subgroup. There are at least 12 serogroups of neisseria meningitidis. A, B, C, X, Y, and W are the types most likley to cause disease.

Honestly I would shout it from the roof top what meningitis is, until the day I die, if it means more people are aware and educated on this disease. It’s repetitive, it’s not interesting to read, but if it saves even one person’s life, it’s totally worth it! The earlier we can spot it, the more likely we are to save a life with the least amount of after effects, which can be life long, you can read about after effects here. I should also mention that the more I write, the more I research, and the more I learn, so with each blog I write I have new information, or more specific information to share. It’s crazy to think two years ago I didn’t know any of this information. Of course I am not a medical professional and you should always consult one if you think that you or someone you know could have meningitis, I write for the purpose of spreading awareness, if it switches on a light in your head to think, hang on, this could be more that a common sickness, this is what I write for!

As always, thank you so much for the support and well wishes, and thank you for taking the time to read my blogs.

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