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Spinal Meningitis

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I was in the hospital for five weeks with spinal meningitis. How did I catch this illness, and can I get it again?

South Carolina

Chances are good that you won’t catch it again because most people develop an immunity to the bacteria or viruses that caused their illness. Spinal meningitis occurs when the fluid-filled membranes (meninges, men-IN-geez) that cover the brain and spinal cord become infected and swollen. Viral meningitis usually resolves in two weeks with little treatment. However, bacterial meningitis is extremely serious and requires immediate treatment at a hospital with antibiotics and medicines to prevent brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. Symptoms of the two types are similar, which is why anyone with high fever, headache, and stiff neck should seek medical help right away. Other warning signs of the disease are nausea, sensitivity to light, confusion, and sleepiness.

Some forms of bacterial meningitis are mildly contagious, especially among those living in crowded conditions. Experts say, however, that talking to someone with the illness or breathing the same air is not dangerous. A vaccine to prevent four common types of bacterial meningitis is recommended for high-risk groups including infants, children, freshmen college students living in dormitories, individuals with weakened immune systems, military recruits, and some overseas travelers.

Washing hands before eating, and after changing diapers or going to the restroom, reduces the spread of many types of germs, including ones that cause potentially deadly infections such as bacterial meningitis. Make it a habit.

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