Thursday, September 13, 2007

Educate Yourself on Meningitis

I recently found out that one of my son's friends had been diagnosed with meningitis and realized after hearing this that I knew zero about the disease except that it was a pretty bad thing to have. I myself was thought to have had meningitis when I was 9 months old but after a spinal tap it was diagnosed as septicemia which nearly killed me. So after hearing the news, I took it upon myself to read up on something that I as a parent should probably know more about. I also decided to post about my findings on here to hopefully educate others on this getting rare, but very dangerous illness. In my research, I discovered that there are basically 2 forms of meningitis; bacterial and viral. Bacterial is the big daddy, almost always killing the victim within the first 48 hours if it is not diagnosed and treated in time. Viral is the more common of the two and while less fatal, is still just as dangerous if not caught in time. 90% of people diagnosed with meningitis have the viral form of it and are treated with antibiotics and cured usually about 2 days after diagnosis.
I also learned the meningitis is not necessarily something that you catch from someone else. While it is a very contagious illness, some unlucky people are just predestined to have it. It can start out as a very common sinus or ear infection but if the bacteria manage to pass over into the brain membrane, it causes meningitis. Another interesting fact is that some people are exposed to the illness and never even get meningitis. The immune system successfully fights the germ off and gets stronger because of that fight.
The most important thing is to learn what the symptoms are and spot them as quickly as possible. Some of the more common symptoms are fever and/or vomiting, severe headache, rash (anywhere on the body), stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, very sleepy/vacant/difficult to wake, confused/delirious, and seizures.
As with most things, the best prevention is to wash your hands. Vaccinating your children is also a great preventative measure although I know some people choose not to vaccinate which is totally their decision. These include shots for measles, chickenpox, Hib disease, and pneumococcal infection. There is also a vaccine for kids 11-18 years of age that can last up to 10 years which the CDC strongly recommends.
So I hope I've passed on some needed info to parents and others. Check out the links for more in depth information. Thanks for reading!

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