Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective layer around the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation can be caused by a virus, a bacterium, or even a fungus.The bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningococcal disease has been.
Meningococcal disease is spread from person to person. The bacteria are spread by exchanging respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit) during close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if living in the same household. Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.
Morbidity and mortality rates from the disease remain high. Apart from epidemics, at least 1.2 million cases of bacterial meningitis are estimated to occur every year; 135,000 of them are fatal. Approximately 500,000 of these cases and 50,000 of the deaths are due to meningococci.
Many patients need resuscitation when they get to hospital: oxygen is given and one or more intravenous lines put in to deliver medicines and resuscitation fluids. Patients with septicaemia may need large amounts of resuscitation fluid to bring their blood volume back to normal. Patients with meningitis may be given steroids to reduce inflammation and other medicines to lower pressure around the brain.
Major research on disease:
Ethical Challenges and Lessons Learned During the Clinical Development of a Group A Meningococcal Conjugate VaccineMost patients are treated on a regular hospital ward, but the sickest patients will need intensive care treatment: about a quarter of children with meningococcal disease need treatment on a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).