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Meningitis! Our Momma Doc Shares What You Should Know

meningitisBreaking news – An unusually high number of viral/aseptic meningitis cases have health officials in Washoe County concerned, particularly since the outbreak coincides with a similar outbreak of viral meningitis in Susanville, CA. But what is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the thin layer of tissue around the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by either a virus (as in these cases) or by a bacteria.
Ok, I have a headache, I must have meningitis right?
Not necessarily… symptoms are similar for both viral and bacterial meningitis, and include:
– yes, headache, usually severe
– stiff neck/back
– confusion
– sensitivity to light and sounds
– high fevers, chills
– nausea, vomiting, poor appetite
Ok, so maybe I don’t have meningitis, but what is the difference between viral and bacterial and what’s the big deal?
You can’t typically tell just based on symptoms, and people who we think could have meningitis have to have a spinal tap to help diagnose if and which type of meningitis it could be.
“Viral meningitis” means it is caused by a virus, which is not treatable by antibiotics and has to run its course. The overwhelming majority of people do get better within a week to ten days with rest and fluids and typically do not have any long-term effects after an infection.
“Bacterial meningitis” is a different story. This type of meningitis can be caused by several different types of bacteria, is much more dangerous, and treated with antibiotics. Depending on the type of bacteria and the severity of the infection, this can be quickly fatal. Other long-term effects that happen in about 50% of survivors can be seizures, brain damage, amputations, and blindness/deafness. We do vaccinate against the most common types of bacteria that cause meningitis because of how common and severe these complications can be.
How do I avoid getting meningitis? 
It is typically spread by contact with sick individuals, but just because you’re around someone who has it does not necessarily mean you are going to contract it. Good hand washing and general hygiene is very important in preventing the spread of any illness.

 

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About Amanda Magrini

Amanda Magrini
Amanda Magrini, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Northern Nevada Medical Group’s Los Altos location in Sparks. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Reno and her medical training at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. Dr. Magrini has practiced family medicine for seven years, including residency, and enjoys her specialty, because she likes taking care of the whole family, from newborns to grandparents. She likes preventative medicine, helping people take care of themselves and the relationships she is able to form with her patients. Dr. Magrini grew up in Sparks, NV and likes that it is a safe place to live with great educational opportunities and beautiful scenery. She thinks Northern Nevada is a great place to raise a family and looks forward to raising her own children here. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, boating, running and traveling the world. Dr. Magrini is also very close with her family; she is married to her high school sweetheart and values spending time with him and the rest of her family. Disclosure: "The author is a licensed physician practicing with Northern Nevada Medical Group, but all opinions expressed are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Northern Nevada Medical Group or any other affiliates of Universal Health Services, Inc."

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