Meningitis is a rare disease that affects the meninges; the protective tissues and fluids covering the brain and the spinal cord. The word meningitis means inflammation of those tissues, the meninges.And although most cases of meningitis are caused by bacteria and viruses, the disease may also be caused by fungi, parasites, some drugs and autoimmune conditions. Meningitis is transmitted through breathing, coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing utensils and cutlery.
Meningitis can affect people of any sex and age. However, it is more common in infants, young children, teenagers and the elderly. This serious disease should be treated as soon as possible to prevent more serious complications. If treatment is delayed, brain and nerve damage, a condition known as septicemia, or even death may occur. Below are 10 common meningitis symptoms.
Symptom #1: Rash
When people think of meningitis, the appearance of a severe rash might come to mind. However, a rash does not always appear in cases of meningitis (even in meningococcal meningitis), and the word ‘rash’ itself is misleading. For the purpose of this article, we will keep referring to this symptom as a rash. Specifically, meningococcal bacteria are the most common (yet rare) cause of meningitis rash. Neisseria meningitidis is a bacterium that can colonize and invade through the upper respiratory system, travel through the bloodstream and cause severe illness (septicemia) by multiplying rapidly and producing toxins that damage vessels and organs. The affected vessels can become more permeable and blood can ‘leak’ into surrounding tissues and appear as a “rash” on the skin. It can be either purpuric or petechial and may signify that the patient has septicemia.
Petechial rash can be the first to appear and it is characterized by pinprick red or purple spots on the skin that can look like flea bites. Petechiae are 1-2mm and usually appear in areas where pressure occurs (i.e. stockings). In such cases, you can carry out the glass test: if the rash fades when pressed it is a blanching rash. The petechial rash seen in meningitis is usually non-blanching. Furthermore, purpuric rash can also be observed. It looks like bruising or reddish-purple areas.