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Encephalitis and Meningitis (cont.)

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Is meningitis contagious?

Yes, some forms of bacterial meningitis are contagious. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (for example, coughing, kissing). Sometimes the bacteria that cause meningitis can spread to other people who have had close or prolonged contact with a patient with meningitis. Meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis (also called meningococcal meningitis) is the most important example. People in the same household, dormitory, or day-care center, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. This also holds true for health care professionals involved in direct, prolonged contact, especially during procedures such as intubations (placing a breathing tube). People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningitis caused by N. meningitidis should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease.

Can meningitis be prevented?

Basic steps to avoid spread of organisms, such a hand washing and covering your mouth when coughing, will also help in decreasing the risk of spreading meningitis. There are vaccines against Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) and against some strains of N. meningitidis and many types of Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The vaccines against Hib are considered very safe and highly effective. By 6 months of age, every infant should receive at least three doses of a Hib vaccine. A fourth dose ("booster") should be given to children between 12 and 18 months of age.

There are vaccines available to prevent N. meningitides infections.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal conjugate vaccine for preteens and teens, including a booster shot. This is especially important for those intending to attend college as living in the large college environment is a risk factor for developing meningococcal meningitis.

Although large epidemics of meningococcal meningitis do not occur in the United States, some countries experience large, periodic epidemics. Overseas travelers should check to see if meningococcal vaccine is recommended for their destination. Travelers should receive the vaccine at least one week before departure if possible.

A vaccine to prevent meningitis due to S. pneumoniae (also called pneumococcal meningitis) can also prevent other forms of infection due to S. pneumoniae. The pneumococcal vaccine is not effective in children under 2 years of age, but it is recommended for all people over 65 years of age and younger people with certain chronic medical problems.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2012 Recommended Immunizations for Children From 7 Through 18 Years Old." Feb. 6, 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/downloads/parent-version-schedule-7-18yrs.pdf>.

United States. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. "Meningitis and Encephalitis Fact Sheet." Dec. 18, 2009. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/encephalitis_meningitis/detail_encephalitis_meningitis.htm>.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2014

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/encephalitis_and_meningitis/article.htm

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