Is bacterial meningitis contagious or not? Here are a few things you may need to know about this and other things regarding meningitis.
Meningitis is a potentially fatal illness that can affect individuals of any race, gender or age. Many people may ask is meningitis contagious or wonder who is at the highest risk for the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who are most susceptible to the illness are between the ages of six and nineteen.
Meningitis occurs when the person’s brain and spinal cord fluid become infected with a germ, the latter of which can be a bacterial or a viral organism. Immediate medical attention is crucial regardless of whether the disease was caused by a virus or bacteria. Aggressive treatment is necessary to prevent damage to the brain and minimize the occurrence of other permanent or long-term side effects.
How Meningitis is Spread
Meningitis is spread through contact with an infected individual. Although the germs are airborne, casual contact such as shaking one’s hand or being in the same work space with an infected person will rarely result in one contracting the disease. However, it can be spread by being in close contact with someone who is coughing or sneezing. Those who practice poor personal hygiene are also at a greater risk of contracting the disease than those who regularly wash their hands and maintain personal cleanliness. In most cases, however, the disease is spread through activities such as sharing drinks or food, as well as kissing or other intimate actions.
As previously mentioned, there are two variations of the disease, which are bacterial and viral. However, there is only one virus associated with meningitis, while there are numerous bacteria that can result in the disease. Viral infections are typically less serious than those that are bacterial in nature, but each variation of the disease is serious and must be treated so if one is to avoid long-tern repercussions such as brain damage, limb amputation or hearing loss.
Viral meningitis is caused by the asceptic virus and can take several weeks to several months to abate. The prognosis is better for those whose meningitis is viral in nature, although there are not as many treatment options for viral meningitis. Unlike antibiotics, that when used safely are typically not harmful, antiviral drugs are so potent that in certain cases the cure can present more risks than the disease itself. Although whether or not antivirals are used, those with viral meningitis need monitoring by a medical professional.
Bacterial meningitis is extremely dangerous and even when appropriately treated it can be fatal. The three primary kinds of bacteria responsible for causing meningitis are pneumococcus, haemophilus and meningococcal, the latter of which is a strain of neisseria meningitidis bacteria and the most common of the three types. To isolate the kind of bacterial meningitis from which a patient is suffering, spinal fluid samples are extracted through a procedure referred to as a lumbar puncture and the fluid is tested by lab technicians. When the bacteria has been identified, the most appropriate oral or intravenous antibiotic is prescribed and the individual is often hospitalized depending upon the severity of his or her symptoms. Both types of the disease can cause the following symptoms:
- Stomach upset
- High fever
- Body rash
- Severe headache
- Sore throat
- Stiff neck
- Mental confusion
Are Viral or Bacterial Meningitis Contagious?
Many people ask for how long is meningitis contagious, but this is not a question for which a definitive answer exists. In addition, it also depends on whether or not the disease is bacterial or viral in nature. When viral meningitis is present in one’s system, it is usually silent for the first five to seven days, after which the first symptoms will become apparent. As soon as the symptoms manifest, the person is considered contagious and will remain so for seven to ten days afterward.
Bacterial meningitis symptoms usually appear in as little as two to three days after the person has come in contact with the disease. He or she is then contagious for the following ten to twelve days.
It is wise for those who suspect they may be suffering from meningitis to seek medical care at once. The sooner treatment is begun for infected persons, the less risk there is of serious complications or death. Patients should not hesitate to ask their doctor for how long is a person with meningitis contagious or any other questions they may have concerning the disease.
Here’s more information about bacterial meningitis.