Spinal meningitis

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:45 pm
Spinal meningitis (me-nun-JYE-tis) is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, called the 'meninges' (muh-NIN-jeez). It can be caused either by bacteria or by a virus. Bacterial meningitis is more serious and potentially fatal. A vaccine given during infancy has drastically reduced the number of cases of bacterial meningitis. In a young infant, the only symptom may be fever and irritability. In older infants, the soft spot at the top of the head may bulge. In addition, children may have a stiff neck when trying to move the head forward and will complain of headache. Some strains of bacterial meningitis are highly contagious, and a child who's had contact with a child who develops meningitis may be given an antibiotic as a precaution. If meningitis is suspected, a child will be given a spinal tap for testing. If the diagnosis is viral meningitis, the child should recover in four to seven days, and antibiotics aren't required. On the other hand, bacterial meningitis usually requires hospitalization and intravenous (in-truh-VEE-nus) antibiotics.

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