This disease, which is fortunately not very common,
affects the covering of our brain and spinal cord called the meninges. Pyogenic meningitis (due to pus-producing bacteria) and
TB meningitis are the two important causes. A less serious
cause is viral meningitis. Pyogenic meningitis often presents
with an acute onset. Compared to that, TB meningitis has a
slow, rather insidious onset.
Early diagnosis and treatment of this disease can save a life. Delay can be fatal or the child
may be left with serious handicaps.
SYMPTOMS: The disease can affect newborn babies as well as older children. The child who
was perfectly well develops a fever. Some of these children may have ear
infection with pus-like discharge from the ear. The
child goes off feeds (in newborns and younger infants, this may be
the earliest symptom, even before the fever). He may be very irritable or listless.
An older child may complain of
persistent headache. He looks sickly and starts vomiting. Stiffness
of the neck may be present. As the disease advances, he may
appear drowsy, avoid light (photophobia), lie curled up to one
side with his neck arched backwards, become unconscious and develop convulsions.
The soft spot in an infant (anterior fontanelle) often
bulges and becomes tense. The child may become dehydrated through lack of intake of food, and vomiting.
TB meningitis shares all these features, except that
they develop slowly over days or weeks.
TREATMENT: Hospitalisation is essential for the treatment of meningitis. If a suspicion of
meningitis even passes through your mind once, consult your doctor. If
he or she also suspects it, the diagnosis will be confirmed by examination of the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid)
present between the meninges. This is removed from the back by putting a needle in between
the two lower spinal vertebrae.
We have effective drugs for both pyogenic and TB meningitis. Most cases of viral meningitis,
unless complicated by encephalitis, recover completely. With early
treatment, those with pyogenic or TB meningitis often recover
fully. This is true even in newborn babies, though they have a poorer prognosis as compared to older children.
11 February, 2013