Meningitis and Septicemia

These are life-threatening conditions that everyone should be aware of as they can kill in a matter of hours. Although most people do recover if they get treatment quickly there are numerous cases of people dying rapidly in large hospital centers. It is absolutely vital that anyone who has symptoms like or similar to one of these conditions must seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible. This article refers specifically to a type of meningitis and septicemia caused by a bacterium called meningococcus. Meningitis can also be caused other bacteria as well as viruses.

You get meningitis following an infection of the fluid that surrounds your spinal cord and brain. There are three layers that separate the central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord) from the rest of your body and these are known as meninges. If someone gets this infection then these meninges become inflamed and as a result can cause very severe damage. The bugs that infect the fluid surrounding your central nervous system can also go on to infect the blood stream, this is called septicemia. Now you can have meningitis and septicemia at the same time or you can have them separately. This is important as many people get confused and think that they are the same condition, however this is not the case. The bug spreads from person to person by droplets of saliva that float around in the air, often these come from sneezing, coughing or kissing. This is an infection that most commonly affects babies under twelve months of age, however the next most likely age group to be affected are teenagers aged 15-18. Others with a higher than normal risk of getting an infection are those who live in a college dorm.


Everyone simply must know what the symptoms of these conditions are as they are life threatening. It can be said that the sooner treatment is administered the better the outcome will be for those who are affected. A high temperature, a rash and sleepiness are all symptoms of both meningitis and septicemia. However people with meningococcal disease get a particular kind of rash that is purple and spotty and does not blanch when you push on it. This is the characteristic non-blanching purpuric rash. One must be aware that the rash is only present in about 1 out of every 3 cases and thus you should not rule out the condition based its absence. A good way to check to see if the rash is blanching or not is to get a glass and press against the rash, if the rash is non-blanching then you will still be able to see it through the glass. However if you see a rash of any description with the above symptoms then you should seek medical help regardless. Those with meningitis may also experience a headache, a stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, pain looking at bright lights, seizures and confusion. Those with septicemia may also have cold hands and feet, they may be shivering, have very rapid breathing and may complain of very painful muscles and joints.

As these conditions can affect young babies it is important to note that the symptoms may be somewhat different in the sense that they may be slow, irritable or sleepy and they may vomit or be feeding poorly. These babies are usually very sick and cry a lot, they usually have a temperature and look pale and blotchy. If you or your child has any of the above symptoms then you must get help straight away, as timing is absolutely critical.


Antibiotics are absolutely the number one mainstay of treatment for this condition. If you are able to get treatment with antibiotics as soon as possible then you have the best chance of recovering. When doctors find that you have these symptoms and suspect it is meningitis then they should give you antibiotics straight away and if they do not then you have every right to demand them. It can be difficult to know who has this condition and who does not, however health practitioners must have a very low threshold for giving the antibiotics. Although it is true that some people will get antibiotics when they do not require them, the benefits far outweigh the risks in this situation. Sometimes steroids are also given at the same time as the antibiotics and these are shown to reduce the chance of them becoming deaf. Steroids used include hydrocortisone and dexamethasone.


If you have been in close contact with someone who was unfortunate enough to contract this disease then you must take antibiotics to cover yourself. The most popular antibiotics for this case are rifampicin, ceftriaxone and ciprofloxacin. You must start these medications straight away, preferably within one day. By close contact we are referring to those who have lived in the same house or dormitory. Also if you were there partner or shared a kitchen with them.


Most who get meningococcal disease do make a recovery and survive. However there are those who do not and in these cases it is one of the most devastating conditions known to man. Many who do not pass away from the infection are left with other debilitating disabilities such as deafness, brain damage or limb amputation. The most important thing to remember is if you have the above symptoms you must seek medical help right away and have antibiotics administered.

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