Meningitis: Septic Vs. Aseptic

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Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that envelope and protect the brain and spinal cord. Diagnosis usually involves performing a spinal tap to determine if infection is present in the cerebrospinal fluid.

Causes

Meningitis caused by bacteria in the blood stream is referred to as septic meningitis. Streptococcus pneumoniae and meningococcus are the two bacteria most commonly responsible. The cause of aseptic meningitis is usually viral, but it can also be caused by a fungus or parasite.

Similarities

High fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and sleepiness are symptoms of both types of meningitis. A spinal tap will reveal if meningitis is septic (bacterial) or aseptic (viral).

Treatment

Septic meningitis requires prompt treatment with antibiotics for two weeks or more. If aseptic meningitis is diagnosed, the patient is advised to rest until the infection resolves itself. Medication may be given for pain.

Significance

If you suspect meningitis you should see a doctor immediately. Septic meningitis can lead to death if not diagnosed early. Aseptic meningitis is more common and not deadly for those with healthy immune systems.

Prevention

Vaccinations are available to prevent the two types of bacteria that commonly cause septic meningitis. Good hygiene practices help prevent the spread of the viruses that cause aseptic meningitis. According to the Center for Disease Control, early childhood vaccinations also protect against some of the viruses that lead to aseptic meningitis.

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