Myths and truths about meningitis



Myths Truths
There is only one type of meningitis Meningitis can be caused by a variety of agents, mainly by different viruses and bacteria, and rarely by types of fungus


Bacterial meningitis is very common No, the most common form is viral meningitis


Meningitis is spread by social contact The main transmission is by droplet contact. Kissing and coughing are common modes of transmission.  Also, dispersion can occur through the use of   items such as cigarettes and glasses (of wine, water, etc.)


Only teenagers and college students are at risk of infection Anyone can get infected. Students are at a higher risk because of increased promiscuity


If someone has meningitis it is a great risk to public health Meningitis is contagious. However, it is spread only via close contact, and not merely by social contact


Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis can differentiate between bacterial and viral meningitis This is a misconception. We should always rely on a combination of clinical evaluation and CSF findings


Children with hemorrhagic fever and a rash are regarded as meningococcemia cases and treated accordingly until proven otherwise This is not always right. The distribution of the rash requires correlation with other clinico-laboratory findings. The criteria commonly used for the diagnosis of meningococcemia are: hemorrhagic rash on the legs, with a scattered distribution, one or two lesions >2 mm in diameter, poor general condition, stiff neck


Meningitis cannot be treated The current antibiotic treatment is extremely effective. It is more effective the sooner it is taken


The disease can be easily prevented by vaccines Meningococcal vaccines protect against only certain types of meningitis. The hemophilus vaccine protects against type b (there are six others), the meningococcal vaccine protects against serogroups A, C, Y, W135 (there are nine others), and a pneumococcal vaccine is used against 13 serotypes (out of 90 or more). Therefore, vaccination offers only partial protection


The vaccine can cause disease No, the vaccine is inactivated (killed). Therefore, it cannot cause disease



Dr J. Kavaliotis, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist


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