Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective cover surrounding the brain and spinal cord due to an infection. Meningitis can be a life-threatening condition and should be treated as a medical emergency. The infection occurs most often in newborns, infants, children, young adults and college students due to the organisms group B strep, ecoli, listeria, nisseria or streptococcus.
The number of meningitis cases will vary from year to year. From 1998-2007, there were between 900 to 3,000 diagnosed meningitis cases each year. Among those who survived, approximately 20 percent suffered permanent injuries such as brain damage, cerebral palsy in newborns, deafness, kidney failure and amputations of the arms or legs.
The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache, stiff neck, fever, confusion, vomiting, drowsiness and an inability to tolerate bright lights. The infection can also cause a rash if it is due to the meningococcal bacteria. Bacterial meningitis can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Any delay in diagnosing or failure to treat meningitis can lead to serious and permanent organ damage or even death. In some recent cases, meningitis was caused by a contaminated batch of steroidal medicine used to treat back pain.