Meningococcal disease was first described as early as 1805, when an
outbreak spread through Geneva, Switzerland. But it
wasn't until 1887 that the bacterium responsible for meningococcal meningitis was
identified. The germs that cause bacterial meningitis are very
common and live naturally in the back of the nose and throat. At any given
time, 10% of the population are carriers of the disease but never actually
become sick. In fact, most cases of meningitis are acquired
through exposure to children or adults who are symptom free.
Meningitis can be spread via nose and throat secretions (eg, coughing,
sneezing, and kissing); however, meningitis is not considered to be a highly
contagious disease; casual contact or breathing in the air where a person
with meningitis has been normally would not expose someone to meningitis
because the bacterium responsible for the diease cannot live outside the body for very long.
Acute meningitis usually develops from an invasion of bacterial and/or
viral germs from the surfaces lining the nose, throat, sinus cavities,
and middle ear space into the bloodstream. It can also result from head
injuries, penetrating wounds, or neurologic surgeries.
In infants, most cases of meningitis are caused by group B streptococcus
and E.coli bacterium. Mother-to-infant
transmission and aspiration of intestinal and genital tract secretions
during labor and delivery are common ways an infant can become sick. After infancy, S pneumoniae is the leading bacterial cause of
||N meningitidis is another common
bacterial meningitis. H influenzae type b meningitis, once the most
prevalent form of meningitis in children, is now more rare in the developed
world because of successful immunization practices (H influenzae type
b conjugate vaccine) in the past 2 decades. In fact,
incorporation of this vaccine into the routine immunization schedule
resulted in a 94% decline in the number of US cases of meningitis caused by H
People living in unsanitary and/or crowded conditions and those with
immunocompromised status are at particularly high risk for meningitis.
Incidence is at a peak in the winter and early spring.
source: adapted from an
article that appeared in Medscape Pediatricis. posted
on kidsgrowth.com 07/01/04