Today, Russia is on the verge of a sharp rise in the incidence of meningitis. According to statistics, 20 years of the epidemic are replaced by 30 years of calm, then a new round begins. WHO reported that epidemics of meningococcal disease are already being recorded around the world.

Our expert – Senior Researcher of the Department of Neuroinfections and Organic Pathology of the Nervous System, Neurologist-Infectious Diseases Doctor of the Children’s Scientific and Clinical Center for Infectious Diseases of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, Doctor of Medical Sciences Alla Vilnits.

Meningitis – inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord – is ill at any age, but children of the first 5 years of life make up 70-80% of all patients, adolescents 13-17 years old and older people over 65 years of age are also at risk.

You won’t get meningitis if you go outside without a hat. It is a myth. The peak incidence of meningitis really falls on the cold season, but it has nothing to do with a headdress.

Immediate and long-term consequences

The disease is caused by viruses and bacteria. The most dangerous are bacterial purulent meningitis. In USA last year, 1 person per 100 thousand of the population was ill with them, however, in some forms, the mortality rate reached 25–30%, that is, every 3–4th sick child died. But even if the patient survived, meningitis does not go away in vain. Thus, psycho-neurological problems occur in half of those who have been ill, gross motor and / or mental disorders – in 5-20%.

One of the most common consequences of purulent meningitis is hearing impairment (up to complete deafness), which arose due to damage to the auditory nerve and receptors. Paresis and paralysis may occur. In 1% of patients, due to severe vascular disorders and thrombosis of large vessels in the arms and legs, it is even necessary to amputate the limbs.

Problems may arise years later. In children and adults who have had purulent meningitis, memory is impaired, concentration of attention is reduced, emotional and behavioral disorders are detected that interfere with learning and limit professional activity. In addition, people who have had a severe infection with this infection have an increased risk of early strokes and heart attacks.

Not sick but contagious

You can become infected with meningitis by airborne droplets, and even from an asymptomatic carrier.

The contagiousness of this infection is weaker than that of influenza, chickenpox, or even “omicron”. Infection requires close contact with the sick person, so crowding, communication in closed institutions is a risk factor. The risk of getting sick increases with a decrease in immunity – with stress, hypothermia, nervous and physical overload, chronic diseases.

Will vaccination help?

In children and people over 65 years of age, 95% of cases of bacterial purulent meningitis are caused by meningococci, pneumococci and Haemophilus influenzae. Meningococci lead to the most rapid course of the disease: only a few hours pass from the initial stage to the development of septic shock and organ failure. Therefore, every fourth or fifth case ends in a fatal outcome. Today, only conscripts and children from some regions are vaccinated free of charge (within the framework of regional programs). For example, in – children 3-6 years old. From pneumococcal infectionin world, children 1-2 years old, conscripts and the elderly who are in closed social institutions are vaccinated free of charge.

Vaccination against infection caused by Haemophilus influenzae is carried out for all children at risk. This vaccination protects not only from meningitis, but also from pneumonia, otitis and other ENT diseases. But on a paid basis, everyone can get vaccinated.

Not to be confused with a stroke

Babies and older people may not have clear symptoms of meningitis. However, mothers of infants should be alerted if the baby has become lethargic, sleeps too much, refuses to eat, often burps, starts to mow with one eye, his fontanel bulges out. Usually, with any ailments, children calm down in the arms of their mothers, and with meningitis, on the contrary, they begin to cry more.

In older people, the first symptoms of meningitis are often confused with ischemic stroke. Indeed, with a neuroinfection, blood pressure can also increase, brain vessels are affected, but the treatment is different. If symptoms occur in the presence of a fever, it is important to rule out meningitis.

It is not easy to treat meningitis: large doses of antibiotics plus hardware detoxification. The microbe itself can be destroyed quickly, but it is much more difficult to restore the destruction it has caused. Often, patients are forced to be on artificial ventilation of the lungs, and then recover for a long time. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself and loved ones through vaccination.

How to reduce the risk?

Early detection and treatment of ENT diseases. Most meningitis begins with otitis media and sinusitis.

Do not smoke. Smoking 100 times increases the risk that meningococcus will take root on the mucous membrane of the nasopharynx.

Strengthen immunity. Walking, sports, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, lack of stress, full recovery from illness.

Seek medical attention if you suspect meningitis. Underestimation of the severity of the patient’s condition and a late visit to the doctor lead to fatal consequences.


Often meningitis is confused with the flu, because it starts as a common cold (fever, cough, runny nose). A diagnosis can only be made after a lumbar puncture and analysis of the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid). Pay attention to any unusual symptoms.

  • temperature above 39 degrees;
  • severe headache, often with vomiting that does not relieve;
  • photophobia, intolerance to loud sounds;
  • lethargy and drowsiness;
  • increased nervousness, agitation, hallucinations;
  • tension in the muscles of the neck (the chin cannot be pressed to the chest);
  • skin rash (meningococcemia).