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What is bacterial meningitis?

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Quick Answer

Bacterial meningitis is a disease resulting from a bacterial infection that causes the meninges to become inflamed, notes Mayo Clinic. Bacterial meningitis is usually a very severe disease that must be treated quickly and efficiently to prevent lifelong injury or death.

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What is bacterial meningitis?
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Full Answer

Bacterial meningitis can be contracted multiple ways. It usually occurs when a strain of bacteria enters the bloodstream through a cut or mucus membrane and makes its way through the body to the brain and spinal cord. A less common form of exposure is through direct contact from the bacteria to the meninges through a skull fracture, ear infection, sinus infection or surgery, according to Mayo Clinic. There are various strains of bacteria that can cause meningitis including pneumococcus, the most common type of meningitis-causing bacteria.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include fever, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, sensitivity to light and disorientation, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not every person with bacterial meningitis exhibits all of these symptoms. Symptoms usually began to show within three to seven days of exposure. Diagnosis and treatment should begin as soon as possible after symptoms present to prevent possible complications leading to blindness, loss of hearing or death.

While everyone is susceptible to bacterial meningitis, select groups have a higher risk of contracting the disease. Infants, the elderly and people living in close quarters such as college students or military service members, are all at a higher risk of being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, according to the CDC.

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