Is Pneumococcal Meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the meninges. The meninges
are the membranes that cover your spinal cord and your brain. Meningitis can be
Most forms of meningitis are caused by viruses. Pneumococcal
meningitis, however, is a bacterial form of meningitis. It’s a serious disease
that can cause death even with proper treatment. See your doctor right away if
you suspect you may have pneumococcal meningitis.
According to the Meningitis Research
Foundation of Canada, up to 40 percent of people may carry the type of
bacteria that causes pneumococcal meningitis in their nose or throat. However,
it’s dormant in the vast majority of cases.
However, when this bacteria spreads to the meninges or its
surrounding fluid, this infection is very dangerous. Even with speedy diagnosis
and treatment, one in five people who develop this condition will die,
according to the Meningitis Foundation of
America. In addition, 25 to 50 percent of those who contract the disease
will have long-term health issues.
of Pneumococcal Meningitis
People typically develop symptoms one to three days after they
were exposed to the bacteria. In some cases, the symptoms may develop sooner or
later than that.
The symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis usually come on rapidly.
An infected person may develop the following:
- chest pain
- a cough
- a headache
- a high fever
Other possible symptoms of this form of meningitis include:
- rapid breathing
- stiff neck
In infants, the soft spot on the head, which is called the
fontanel, may bulge outward.
What Causes Pneumococcal Meningitis?
Pneumococcal meningitis can occur when the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria invade
the bloodstream, cross the blood-brain barrier and multiply within the fluid
surrounding the spine and brain.
These bacteria don’t always cause meningitis. More commonly, they
may cause other illnesses such as:
- ear infections
- sinus infections
- bacteremia, which is a blood infection
Is Pneumococcal Meningitis Transmitted?
Pneumococcal meningitis is transmitted from one person to another.
The bacteria are spread through direct contact with the tiny droplets from an
infected person’s mouth, throat, or nose. For example, if someone with the
infection coughs or sneezes on or near you, you may contract the disease.
You can also contract the disease from an infected person by
kissing or by sharing anything that comes into contact with the mouth such as:
- a cup
- a fork
- a straw
- a lipstick
- a cigarette
Up to 40
percent of the population may carry Streptococcus pneumonia. In
most of these people, the bacteria are dormant, which means they’re not
actively growing and replicating. However, the bacteria can be transmitted even
when it’s dormant.
Living in places where large groups of people tend to live, such
as dormitories, can increase your risk for infection.
Is Pneumococcal Meningitis Diagnosed?
Pneumococcal meningitis is generally diagnosed through a spinal
tap. This involves your doctor collecting a sample of the fluid in your spine.
By testing this fluid, your doctor can figure out whether you have pneumococcal
Your doctor will also perform a physical examination when trying
to figure out if you have pneumococcal meningitis. Signs and symptoms that
point toward this condition include:
- a fast heart rate
- a fever
- a stiff neck
Options for a Pneumococcal Meningitis Infection
If you have pneumococcal meningitis, you’ll immediately be admitted
to the hospital. You’ll then be treated with antibiotics. Ceftriaxone is an
antibiotic that’s commonly used to treat this condition. However, it’s not the
only option and is often used along with other antibiotics. Other possible
antibiotics for bacterial meningitis include:
Is the Long-Term Outlook for People with Pneumococcal Meningitis?
This is a serious form of meningitis. Even with proper diagnosis
and treatment, up to 1 in 5 people who
develop this condition will die.
Long-term brain problems occur in 25 to 50 percent of people who survive
meningitis. These problems include:
- brain damage
- learning disabilities
Because this disease is so dangerous, it’s very important to go
to the doctor right away if you suspect you have it.
to Prevent Pneumococcal Meningitis
There are two vaccines available to protect against different
types of pneumococcal meningitis.
These vaccines are usually recommended for:
- children under 2 years old
- adults age 65 or over
- older children and adults at high risk for the disease
People who smoke or have asthma may also be candidates for the