Jan 29, 2015
24-Hour Killer: Bacterial Meningitis

In Marsha Grant-Ford’s presentation on bacterial meningitis, five case studies revealed the lethal fury the disease unleashes in less than 24 hours of infecting its host.

Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The disease is rare; about 12,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with meningitis each year. Most–approximately 9,000–contract aseptic meningitis, the viral and less-serious form of the disease, which mimics the flu symptoms. In general, people afflicted with this type of meningitis recover in 10 days after diagnosis.

Bacterial, or meningococcal, meningitis is the swift-acting version of the infection that afflicts 3,000 people annually and can kill its victims in as little as eight hours after contracting the disease. Ten percent of those infected with meningococcal meningitis die, while another 20 percent will suffer debilitating side effects, such as blindness and limb amputation.

What makes meningococcal meningitis precipitously fatal is that its cells double every 20 minutes. Like it’s viral cousin, the symptoms of bacterial meningitis mimic lesser life-threatening illnesses, such as salmonella, gastroenteritis, Norwalk virus, and even alcohol poisoning, making it difficult to diagnose the ailment. Worse, these similarities often cause victims to ignore early warning signs of this killer disease until it is too late.

Meningitis is a communicable disease, making confined areas such as locker rooms, school buses, and college campuses risky environments for picking up the disease. What preventative measures can be taken to reduce the risks? Grant-Ford suggested better hygiene practices–especially among women who are more prone to passing germs, as females are more social than males–and getting vaccinated.

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