In 1987, tens of thousands of people flocked to Saudi Arabia for the annual Haji pilgrimage. However, the festival started a disease outbreak. Just a few days after the pilgrimage, more than 2,000 cases of meningitis were discovered, spread throughout Arabia and then the whole world. The outbreak created a pandemic of meningitis that infected tens of thousands of people worldwide.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges consisting of three layers responsible for protecting the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is very dangerous compared to other diseases because of the speed of death, the worst case, death comes in just one day. Fortunately, patients who receive early medical treatment can still be cured.
Three main causes of this disease include: fungi, viruses and bacteria. In which bacteria is the most dangerous agent, is also the focus of this article. People are often infected by inhaling mucus and saliva in the air from an infected person when they sneeze or cough. The disease is also spread through kissing, smoking, sharing brushes and personal items. Some people may be infected and carry the disease without showing symptoms, which can cause the disease to spread very quickly.
The bacteria invade through the airways, they pass through the mucosa and into the bloodstream. From there proceeded to the blood brain barrier. This membrane is made up of a network of cells that help separate blood vessels and brain, preventing everything from passing through some special substances like water and some other gas molecules.
But meningitis bacteria can deceive this barrier and get inside. After that, the bacteria quickly attack the meninges, when the immune system reacts to inflammation, causing fever and severe headache, followed by neck stiffness. Brain edema disrupts basic functions such as hearing loss and is extremely sensitive to light. When the pressure in the skull increases, it causes the patient to be lethargic.
A few hours later, the bacteria multiply rapidly and start releasing toxins, leading to a blood infection. Since then, the blood vessels were broken, blood spilled and formed large bruises under the skin. At the same time, toxins decompose oxygen in the blood, reducing oxygen to vital organs such as the lungs and kidneys, making organs capable of stopping life-threatening activities.
It sounds scary but medicine still has a treatment, in adults, patients who are found early can quickly reduce the risk of death. The longer the treatment is delayed, the higher the risk of leaving sequelae. When hypoxia causes distal organs such as arms and legs to become necrotic, the ability to remove the limb is high. And if bacterial toxins accumulate causing death of brain cells, it can lead to memory loss.
Therefore, emergency treatment or prevention is very important. That's why many countries use vaccines to prevent this dangerous disease. They are usually given to high-risk subjects, such as young children, people with weak immunity or densely populated areas, at risk of outbreaks.
The cases still occur worldwide but are most common in "meningitis belt" in Africa. If you find yourself or a loved one showing signs of meningitis, see your doctor as soon as possible to preserve your life.