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Bacterial Meningitis
(NF001)

Introduction


The meninges are membranes that enclose the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the most common cause of which is infection by viruses or bacteria that enter the meninges through the bloodstream from other parts of the body. This area of the body has no "host defenses" to fight off invading bacteria, which allows unchecked duplication of the infecting organism.

Bacterial meningitis causes inflammation and swelling that can result in significant consequences including hearing loss, brain damage, and even death.

Bacteria that cause meningitis are carried in the nose and throat (nasopharynx). People can be "infected" with the bacteria for days, weeks or months with no symptoms. At any given time it is estimated that 10% of the population are "carriers". Aside from epidemics, at least 1.2 million cases of bacterial meningitis are estimated to occur every year with 135,000 of these cases being fatal.

Treatment of bacterial meningitis requires antibiotics as well as medications such as steroids to reduce swelling in the brain. Close contacts of persons with meningitis are usually prescribed antibiotics to prevent further development and spread of the disease.

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