The diagnosis of Meningitis requires the performance of a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) in which a small amount of fluid is removed through a needle placed in the spinal canal. The cerebrospinal fluid is examined to determine whether an infection is present.

The bacteria causing Meningitis lives in the nose and throat of people who are immune to invasive disease, but can carry the germs and spread them to other people by talking, coughing, sneezing, kissing or any other activity which can expose others to respiratory secretions. If a child lacks immunity to the germ then he/she is at high risk of suffering invasion by the germs from the nose and throat into the bloodstream and from there to cerebrospinal fluid.

Meningitis can damage the blood vessels going to and from the brain. As a result of this damage, nerve cells in the brain may suffer permanent damage and die. The most common complication of Meningitis is deafness. Other long term effects include: learning problems, retardation, behaviour problems, muscle weakness or paralysis, seizures or epilepsy.

Meningitis rarely occurs more than once. The only situations in which it may reoccur are: newborns who suffer meningitis may get it again within a few weeks because of their inability to make a protective immune response; children with certain disorders of the immune system; children and adults with malformations of the inner ear or spinal canal.

Most adolescents and adults have developed natural immunity to the Meningitis germs so although they may carry the germs in the nose and throat, their immunity protects them against invasive diseases such as Meningitis.

It varies depending on how severe the case is. Antibiotic treatment is given for 7-10 days. Full recovery may take several weeks to a few months.

All children should be immunised with all of the available Meningitis vaccines (Hib vaccine, pneumococcal and meningococcal vaccines) since there are several different bacteriums able to cause Meningitis. No one vaccine protects against all strains. It is also important to note, not every vaccine gives you 100% immunity.

All people who have recovered from Meningitis should have their hearing tested. Children should also be seen at regular intervals by the family doctor or paediatrician to make sure that they are developing normally. If any problems are detected, then the child should be fully evaluated by a specialist in child development.

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