A tragedy in Deer Creek, Oklahoma has pushed bacterial meningitis into the spotlight after it claimed the life of Nathan Rogalski. Nathan, who was a star athlete within his community, passed away due to complications of the rare infection, and now his loved ones are spreading awareness to save anyone from the same fate.
While it is rare, bacterial meningitis can be very severe. This makes it important to understand what it is, what it looks like, and what to do if you may be affected.
First up is the cause. As the name suggests, various types of bacteria are responsible for meningitis. This bacteria is spread from person to person in the majority of cases, but it can be passed through contaminated food as well.
Because of this, meningitis is very common in tight living spaces, as it is much easier for people to spread it around. College dorms, barracks, and other tight quarters are often the spaces where outbreaks occur.
Beyond the risk factor brought on by the transmission of the disease, there are a number of other things that can put one at a higher risk of catching this infection. The major factor is age; babies are most commonly impacted by bacterial meningitis. Having certain medical conditions, such as HIV, also puts one at a higher risk.
Now that we have a basic understand of what causes bacterial meningitis, we can begin to look into the resulting symptoms. The hallmark symptom is an intense headache, which is joined by nausea, stiff neck, fever, visual disturbances, and vomiting. Without prompt treatment, these symptoms can lead to complications like seizures, permanent brain damage, coma, and death.
If you notice these symptoms, it’s integral to get treatment as quickly as possible. Doctors will utilize steroids to reduce swelling in the brain, and then must figure out which type of meningitis you have. They do this through a spinal tap, which they use to test the spinal fluid, and by administering various medications that would treat all forms of meningitis. This means antibiotics, antivirals, and even antifungals. Then, when they are confident in the cause of your symptoms, they will remove the treatments that have no use.
Hopefully, you step away from this article with a better understanding of what bacterial meningitis is, what to watch out for, and what to do if you do catch it. One more takeaway you should leave with is the importance of vaccines.
The best way to prevent meningitis is to get vaccinated, which you should do at age 11. Then, you receive a booster shot later on, when you’re a teenager. If you aren’t vaccinated, look into it and protect yourself from meningitis!
Learn more about meningitis with the CDC.
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