Meningitis: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to meningitis.

Q: When I was growing up in the 1960’s, several young children in the neighborhood died of meningitis. Now that I’m a parent, how can I protect my 3-year-old child from this disease?

A: Make sure your child is vaccinated against haemophilus influenza type B (Hib). Before this vaccination was introduced into the routine immunization program for U.S. children, Hib meningitis infected between 16,000 and 25,000 children annually, killing about 1 in every 20 children it infected. About 90 percent of the cases were in children under 5 years of age. By 1998, the Hib vaccine had virtually eliminated Hib meningitis in the United States.

Q: My mother is hospitalized with meningitis. The doctors said she will recover, but probably will suffer some mild health effects from the disease. What are these effects?

A: In general, most people recover fully. But some after effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Recurring headaches
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Clumsiness
  • Balance problems
  • Depression
  • Bouts of aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Learning difficulties

Q: My child recently recovered from a bout of bacterial meningitis. Now, my doctor wants me to take my child for a hearing test. Why?

A: One of the most common problems resulting from meningitis is hearing loss. A hearing exam following meningitis is especially important for young children whose hearing loss is often difficult to detect.

Q: My doctor told me that I have a case of viral meningitis. But I don’t feel very sick. Should I be concerned?

A: Viral meningitis is much less debilitating than bacterial meningitis. Most people exposed to viruses that cause meningitis experience mild or no symptoms and fully recover without complications.

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