The news of an outbreak of a rare type of fungal meningitis that has sickened 91 people and killed seven to date has put patients, parents and medical professionals on high alert. Meningitis is an extremely rare disease within the United States, but it's fast progression can be fatal if not treated properly.
The form of fungus blamed for the outbreak is aspergillus meningitis, which was found within vials of a steroid used for back pain called methylprednisolone acetate, as reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA). The medication has since been recalled, after the condition spread across nine states: Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana and North Carolina.
According to the Meningitis Foundation of America (MFA), there are two types of meningitis, aseptic and bacterial, with bacterial being more rare in occurrence. Here are some facts about meningitis, according to the MFA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
1. Meningitis travels through the blood to the spinal cord. Those living with a weakened immune system, either due to a medical condition like cancer or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or certain medications, are most susceptible. Those medications include steroids, like prednisone, those administered following an organ transplant or to treat autoimmune conditions.
2. This disease CANNOT be spread person to person. Therefore, fungal meningitis is NOT contagious.
3. Fungal meningitis is contracted through inhaling microscopic amounts of contaminated soil or bird droppings. Regions commonly affected are the Midwest, where blastomyces may be found in soil, or in the Southwestern United States, where coccidioides can be found. Anyone with an impaired immune system should take extra care to protect themselves when in these areas.
5. Meningitis causes inflammation in the lining of the brain, called the meninges, which can lead to brain damage and death.
6. Symptoms of fungal meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting and an altered mental state. If someone seems to be presenting with symptoms of a cold or flu, having them bend their chin to their chest can help check for meningitis.
7. In order to diagnose fungal meningitis, blood samples must be taken for testing, along with fluids from the spinal cord.
8. Treating fungal meningitis involves antifungal medication, typically administered in the hospital.
9. Even following successful treatment, those who've been diagnosed with fungal meningitis need regular doctor supervision, as they remain at a higher risk for brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities, speech complications, seizers, paralysis and death.
10. In terms of prevention, vaccines are available. While it can be difficult to prevent, maintaining good hygiene both on the body and in the home can help reduce the risk.
Keep yourself and your family protected from meningitis this year by following the recommended guidelines for prevention. Check out our full selection of immunity boosters and sanitizing products for you and your home at eVitamins. Be sure to see a doctor immediately if you or a loved one presents any of the symptoms mentioned above. Let's stay healthy this fall and all year long.
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