Is the inflammation of the meninges in the lining of the brain . There are two main forms of meningitis:
• Viral meningitis which is caused by a virus
• Bacterial meningitis, caused by several different types of bacteria ; meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis are the most prevalent.
The bacteria that cause meningitis live in the back of the throat or nose of about 10% of the population and in up to 25% of young adults. They rarely give rise to illness but, when they do, infection progresses very rapidly and is fatal in one in ten cases.
Most cases of meningitis are seen in young children under five years of age with the greatest risk at around six months. The next highest incidence is among teenagers between 15 and 19 years and recent figures have shown an increase in cases of young people under the age of 25 years.
Antibiotics should be given immediately if bacterial meningitis is suspected. Oral antibiotics are recommended for close household or family contacts to prevent further spread. Early diagnosis is vital and most doctors now carry appropriate medication at all times.
Some symptoms of meningitis in adults and young people (above) and babies (below)