Under new state requirements, Brady Independent School District hs been authorized to submit an article for publication concerning bacterial meningitis. “We wanted to get this information out to the public to make them aware of the possible danger associated with meningitis,” said Brady ISD Supt. Max Gordon. “We’ve been fortunate that we have not had a meningitis problem in this area, but there have been areas in the state where it has been a concern.” Meningitis is an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord’also called the meninges. It can be caused by viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria. Viral (aseptic) meningitis is common; most people recover fully. Medical management of viral meningitis consists of supportive treatment and there is usually no indication for the use of antibiotics. Parasitic and fungal meningitis are very rare. Bacterial meningitis is very serious and may involve complicated, medical, surgical, pharmaceutical and life support management. There are two common types of bacteria that cause meningitis: ‘Strep pneumonia causes pneumococcal meningitis; there are over 80 subtypes that cause illness. ‘Neisseria meningitidis’meningococcal meningitis; there are five subtypes that cause serious illness’A, B, C, Y, W-135. COMMON SYMPTOMS Someone with meningitis will become very ill. The illness may develop over one or two days, but it can also progress in a matter of hours. Not every one with meningitis will have the same symptoms. Children (over one year old) and adults with meningitis may have: ‘ severe headache ‘ high temperature ‘ vomiting ‘ sensitivity to bright lights ‘ neck stiffness, joint pains ‘ drowsiness or confusion. In both children and adults, there may be a rash of tiny, red-purple spots or bruises caused by bleeding under the skin. These can occur anywhere on the body. There are a sign of blood poisoning (septicemia) which sometimes happens with meningitis, particularly the meningococcal strain. How serious is bacterial meningitis’ If it is diagnosed early and treated promptly, the majority of people make a complete recovery. In some cases it can be fatal or a person may be left with a permanent disability, such as deafness, blindness, amputations or brain damage (resulting in mental retardation or paralysis) even with prompt treatment. How is bacterial meningitis spread’ Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. The germs live naturally in the back of our noses and throats, but they do not live for long outside the body. They are spread when people exchange saliva (such as by kissing; sharing drinking containers, utensils or cigarettes). The germ does not cause meningitis in most people. Instead, most people become carriers of the germ for days, weeks or even months. Being a carrier helps to stimulate your body’s natural defense system. The bacteria rarely overcome the body’s immune system and causes meningitis or another serious illness. What is the risk of getting bacterial meningitis’ The risk of getting bacterial meningitis in all age groups is about 2.4 cases per 100,000 population per year. However, the highest risk group for the most serious form of the disease, meningococcal meningitis, is highest among children two to 18 years old. How is bacterial meningitis diagnosed’ The diagnosis is usually based on a combination of clinical symptoms and laboratory results from spinal fluid and blood. Spinal fluid is obtained by a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). How can bacterial meningitis be prevented’ Do not share food, drinks, utensils, toothbrushes or cigarettes. Limit the number of persons you kiss. Vaccines against pneumococcal disease are recommended both for young children and adults over 64. A vaccine against four meningococcal serogroups (A, C, Y, W-135) is available. These four groups cause the majority of meningococcal cases in the United States. This vaccine is recommended by some groups for college students, particularly freshmen living in dorms or residence halls. The vaccine is safe and effective (85-90 percent). It can cause mild side effects such as redness and pain at the injection site lasting up to two days. Immunity develops within seven to 10 days after the vaccine is given and lasts up to five years. What should you do if you think you or a friend might have bacterial meningitis’ Seek prompt medical attention. A school nurse, family doctor and the staff at a local or regional health department office are all excellent sources for information on all communicable diseases. Also, contact the local health department or Regional Texas Department of Health office to ask about meningococcal vaccine. Additional information may also be found at the web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov and the Texas Department of Health at www.tdh. state.tx.us.