Meningitis – Everything You Need to Know

Everyone in the UK has heard of meningitis. Public health campaigns have centred on the virus and its dangers for years, especially in relation to neonatal care. The messaging has been undoubtedly effective for awareness, but confusion still abounds regarding the exact nature of the virus, and the risks that come along with it.

Here, we will explore meningitis – what it is, how it is caught and the various symptoms that can present in those that catch it. While the coronavirus pandemic has assisted in reducing instances of meningitis by 89% between 2020 and 2021, the risks the virus poses are still considerable. As such, here is everything you need to know.

What is Meningitis?


Meningitis is a form of infection, which can occur due to either a virus or bacterial strain. The viral form of meningitis is by far the most common, but bacterial meningitis is much more dangerous. Viral meningitis exists in a number of key forms, from mumps and stomach-related enteroviruses to herpes. Bacterial meningitis is caused by a number of different strains, including meningococcal and pneumococcal strains.

Meningitis can be a relatively mild illness in adults, but younger and older people are at higher risk of illness and severe health issues if they catch meningitis; bacterial meningitis, in particular, poses a fatal risk to babies and young children.

The Symptoms of Meningitis

The numerous strains of meningitis naturally have different effects on the body; enteroviruses can lead to stomach flu, while the herpes virus causes cold sores and genital warts. But there are key symptoms that can indicate a general infection: vomiting, diarrhoea muscle pain, headache and fever are common, while rashes can indicate a severe bacterial infection.

While underdeveloped immune systems are a major reason for the increased risks associated with children catching meningitis, there is also a much more pernicious factor to consider. Symptoms of meningitis are much harder to spot in younger children, being non-specific and common symptoms such as sleepiness. These non-specific symptoms increase the risk of misdiagnosis and the advancement of the infection to dangerous levels.

In these unfortunate instances, the damage can be preventable but irreversible. However, the families of those affected could have the avenue of compensation left open to them, with medical negligence claims a possibility where misdiagnosis has led to injury or even death.

Complications and Prevention

If allowed to progress, meningitis can lead to long-term side effects and even disability. Hearing loss can often result from unchecked meningitis infections, while younger children and babies can suffer life-long learning impairment as a result of brain damage.

Thankfully, meningitis is a much rarer disease now than it was in the past – largely due to a successful vaccination programme, which sees babies and young children inoculated against the more dangerous forms of the virus.

* Collaborative post. This post is for information purposes only and does not offer medical advice

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