Español: Meningitis bacteriana
Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. Most people recover from meningitis. However, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) can result from the infection.
There are several types of bacteria that can cause meningitis. Leading causes in the United States include
On average, bacterial meningitis caused about 4,100 cases and 500 deaths in the United States each year between 2003 and 2007.
These bacteria can also be associated with another serious illness, sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
Common causes of bacterial meningitis vary by age group:
Certain people are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis. Some risk factors include:
Generally, the germs that cause bacterial meningitis spread from one person to another. Certain germs, such as Listeria monocytogenes, can spread through food.
How people spread the germs often depends on the type of bacteria. It is also important to know that people can carry these bacteria in or on their bodies without being sick. These people are “carriers.” Most carriers never become sick, but can still spread the bacteria to others.
Here are some of the most common examples of how people spread each type of bacteria to each other:
People usually get sick from Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes by eating contaminated food.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing listeriosis, an infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Pregnant women with listeriosis typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and aches. Infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn, including meningitis. Pregnant women can reduce their risk of meningitis caused by Listeria monocytogenes. You can reduce the risk that you and your baby will get meningitis caused by Listeria monocytogenes by avoiding certain foods and safely preparing others.
Pregnant women can pass group B Streptococcus (group B strep) to their baby during labor and delivery. A newborn infected with group B strep can develop meningitis or other life-threatening infections soon after birth. Talk with your doctor or midwife about getting a group B test when you are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. Doctors give antibiotics (during labor) to women who test positive in order to prevent infection in newborns.
Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often other symptoms, such as
In newborns and babies, the meningitis symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice. The baby may be irritable, vomit, feed poorly, or appear to be slow or inactive. In young babies, doctors may also look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes. If you think your baby or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure
Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible.
If a doctor thinks you have meningitis, they will collect samples of blood or cerebrospinal fluid (fluid near the spinal cord). A laboratory will test the samples to see what is causing the infection. It is important to know the specific cause of meningitis so the doctors know how to treat it.
Doctors treat bacterial meningitis with a number of antibiotics. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible.
The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for three types of bacteria that can cause meningitis:
Make sure you and your child are vaccinated on schedule.
Like with any vaccine, the vaccines that protect against these bacteria are not 100% effective. The vaccines also do not protect against all the types (strains) of each bacteria. For these reasons, there is still a chance you can develop bacterial meningitis even if you were vaccinated.
Pregnant women should talk to their doctor or midwife about getting tested for group B Streptococcus. Women receive the test when they are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. Doctors give antibiotics (during labor) to women who test positive in order to prevent passing group B Strep to their newborns.
Pregnant women can also reduce their risk of meningitis caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Women should avoid certain foods during pregnancy and safely prepare others.
If someone has bacterial meningitis, a doctor may recommend antibiotics to help prevent other people from getting sick. Doctors call this prophylaxis. CDC recommends prophylaxis for:
Your doctor or local health department will tell you if you or someone in your house needs prophylaxis.
You can also help protect yourself and others from bacterial meningitis by maintaining healthy habits:
This is especially important for people at increased risk for disease, including: