Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis Epidemic encephalomyelitis is an infection that results in inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (also known as meningococcus) The bacteria are transmitted from person-to- person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers. The average incubation period is four days, but can range between two and 10 days.
Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis Symptoms Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include: Fever and chills Nausea and vomiting Severe headache Stiff neck
Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis Diagnosis Initial diagnosis can be made by clinical examination followed by a lumbar puncture showing a purulent spinal fluid. The bacteria can sometimes be seen in microscopic examinations of the spinal fluid.
Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis Treatment Meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. Appropriate antibiotic treatment must be started ASAP, ideally after the lumbar puncture has been carried out if such a puncture can be performed immediately. If treatment is started prior to the lumbar puncture it may be difficult to grow the bacteria from the spinal fluid and confirm the diagnosis. A range of antibiotics can treat the infection, including penicillin, ampicillin, chloramphenicol and ceftriaxone.
Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis Prevention Close contacts in the same household, school, or day care center should be watched for early signs of the disease as soon as the first case is diagnosed. Vaccines are effective recommended for: College students in their first year living in dormitories Military recruits Travelers to certain parts of the world