Viral meningitis is mostly caused by a group of viruses, called enteroviruses. Viral infections like mumps; hand, foot, and mouth disease, and influenza can also cause meningitis. They are typically milder in their intensity and die down within 10 days or so.
Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, sets in fast and is more serious. In severe instances, they can even cause kidney and adrenal gland failure, developmental delays, deafness, blindness, speech loss, muscle problems, seizures, and even death.
Meningitis is not communicable as such. Also vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox and influenza can help reduce the occurrence of meningitis.
Symptoms of meningitis vary from person to person and can at times be even mild enough to go unnoticed:
- Tense or bulging soft spot on the head
- Fever with a headache, shivering and vomiting
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pin prick rashes or marks; purple bruises on the body
- Stiffness in body with jerky movements; stiff neck
- Diarrhoea with no interest in eating or drinking
- Irritable when picked up, often accompanied by a cry or moan
Meningitis can evolve very fast and the infant’s condition can worsen in a very quick span unless it is treated at the earliest. Once the case is referred to a doctor, he may suggest a lumbar puncture or a CT scan to diagnose the illness. Blood and urine sample will also need to be taken.
Medication for viral meningitis is limited to pain relievers and fever-reducing tablets. Plenty of liquids must also be administered to avoid dehydration.
In the case of bacteria-caused meningitis, the treatment is more heavy-duty. The infant may need to be hospitalised and administered strong antibiotics to fight the illness.
Whether caused by viral or bacterial infection, meningitis can become very serious in the long run if there is any delay in treatment. Septicaemia could also occur, where there is blood poisoning caused by the same meningitis-causing germs. It runs the risk of putting the infant at a risk for deafness, intellectual disability, and even death in extreme situations.