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Wellness Center

Meningitis

06/24/2008

Question:

I know that meningitis can be either bacterial or viral - if someone has been diagnosed with meningitis and is in a coma does that mean the meningitis bacterial

Answer:

It is likely that the person you are referring does have bacterial meningitis. Viral meningitis is usually a much milder illness than the bacterial form of the illness, with most patients managed safely at home.

Bacterial meningitis is caused bacteria, fungi, or any type of microbe that have entered the body through the nose of mouth and has become lodged in the linings that cover the brain and spinal cord, the meninges, causing a severe infection. In most cases, the infection spreads from the meninges or brain lining into the brain tissue itself. The infectious process as well as the body's disease fighting efforts cause damage to the infected tissues and increase pressure inside of the brain. This is what causes the coma. The brain is so swollen it cannot function normally.

Antibiotics are the mainstay of effective treatment. As the infection is effectively treated, most patients slowly regain consciousness as the swelling in their brain decreases. depending on the organism that has caused the infection, long term problems are more or less likely to happen. It is very hard to predict any patient's outcomes because so many factors influence the course and outcomes of their illness including which parts of the brain were most affected, how quickly an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment were begun, the person's overall health, and the strength of the immune system's function.

I hope all will be well soon.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University