What are the symptoms of meningitis?

By Jaco Hough-Coetzee
04 September 2016

There have been several cases of the potentially deadly disease in SA in the past few months.

Doctors Without Borders recently warned the World Health Organisation against five possible illnesses which break out into epidemics this year, one of these was meningitis.

Several South Africans have been diagnosed with the condition in the past six months.

This week the Potchefstroom student Ettienne de Villiers (19) became one of the statistics when he died as a result of meningitis. In April a student at the University of Stellenbosch was also diagnosed with the disease, but he recovered after receiving treatment.

In June Roelf Uijs (11) of Elisras died within 24 hours of being admitted into hospital with meningitis. More than 30 cases were reported from December last year to January this year in the Mossel Bay area alone.

Read more:What you need to know about meningitis

Two kinds of meningitis

Meningitis is a tissue infection in the brain and spine marrow which is caused by a virus or bacteria.

Bacterial meningitis can be fatal and is contagious; it can be contracted by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the bacteria. This can happen during sneezing, nose-bleeds or sharing lipstick or lip balm, or with a kiss.

Viral meningitis is in most cases less serious and patients usually make a full recovery. This virus is usually contracted by mosquitos or coming into contact with water that has been contaminated with sewerage.

Symptoms

The symptoms of meningitis are a lot like that of a bad cold or flu. It includes headaches which are usually paired with nausea and high fevers.

Often the patient’s eyes can also become very sensitive to light and they’ll complain about a stiff neck. In some cases it can be so bad that you cannot reach your chest with your chin.

Other possible symptoms include diarrhoea, drowsiness, a dark red rash, feeling disorientated or even unconsciousness.

Not all those affected will experience all the symptoms, but it is best to visit a doctor as soon as you experience just a few of the symptoms.

Read more: The vaccine dilemma

How is it treated?

When you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and he or she will conduct the necessary tests for meningitis.

Patients who test positive for the illness will be admitted to hospital immediately for treatment. It is also smart to make an appointment with your doctor if you have come into contact with someone who has meningitis.

The earlier the diagnosis is made the better the chances of a full recovery.

Sources: health24.com; cdc.gov; meningitis.org

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