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Meningitis Quick Questions

Meningitis Quick Questions

Provided by Henry “Elie” Schwartz, MD, Schwartz Pediatrics

Who is at risk for meningitis?

Those at an increased risk for meningitis include people with incomplete immunizations, recent exposure to someone with meningitis, penetrating head trauma, cochlear ear devices and certain medical conditions and immunodeficiencies.

Are there any long-term effects of meningitis?

Younger children who have bacterial meningitis are at risk for developmental delays and hearing problems. Most patients with viral meningitis recover completely without long-term complications.

How is meningitis treated?

Bacterial meningitis needs to be treated with antibiotics. Viral meningitis is treated with supportive care consisting of pain medicines to control headaches, rest in a dimly lit room and hydration.

Is there anything I can do to prevent my child from getting meningitis?

The most important thing you can do is to vaccinate them. There currently are three vaccines that prevent the most common types of bacterial meningitis. For younger children, these include the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and pneumococcal disease (PCV13) vaccines, which are routinely given at 2, 4 and 6 months old with a booster at 12 to 15 months. The meningococcal disease (MCV4) vaccine is given at 11 years old with a booster after the age of 16. The MCV4 vaccine protects against four of the five most common types of meningococcal disease but does not, however, protect against type B, a leading type of meningitis. Fortunately, there is now a Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccine, which protects specifically against type B. Although this vaccine is now available, it is not yet considered to be part of the routine immunization schedule. Ask your physician for more information.

What should I do if I am exposed to someone with bacterial meningitis?

Alert your doctor if you or your child are exposed to someone with bacterial meningitis. Antibiotics may be prescribed for those persons in close contact with people who have certain types of meningitis to prevent disease and stop the spread of infection.

What defines close contact?

Close contact is defined as having prolonged contact (greater than eight hours) in close proximity (less than three feet) to the patient or being directly exposed to the patient’s oral secretions. These include household members, intimate contacts (kissing or sharing toothbrushes, eating utensils and water bottles), contacts at a childcare center, students exposed in dormitories and military recruits.

If I was exposed to meningitis, how soon afterward must I get on antibiotics?

It is best to receive antibiotics within the first 24 hours of exposure to prevent disease. If the first 24 hours is not possible, you should not wait more than two weeks to get on antibiotics.

Do I have to take special precautions after I have received antibiotics for meningitis exposure?
No. College students in affected dormitories do not need to leave school. Military recruits do not need to return home. Parents can still care for their children. Those in close contact need to speak with their physician immediately in case they develop symptoms suggestive of meningitis.

Originally published in the Spring 2016 print edition.

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