Its only name worries, even when one has no medical knowledge: meningitis. Everyone knows that it can be dangerous, even deadly. But what is meningitis, how do you catch it and how do you treat it?
In four weeks, since the beginning of November, four cases of meningitis have been detected in Strasbourg. One of the people affected died, the other three were able to be treated. But what is meningitis exactly? Doctor Nicolas Lefebvre, head of the infectiology department answers our questions.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the three membranes that wrap and protect the central nervous system, made up of the brain, cerebellum, brain stem and spinal cord. At the origin of the infection, there can be a virus, a bacterium, a fungus or a parasite. In the case of the four patients affected in Strasbourg, it was the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis.
The professor who treated them in his department at the NHC in Strasbourg explains: “This bacterium settles in the nasopharyngeal sphere and is transmissible from man to man. It is transmitted by close and prolonged contact, without a mask. It can be very invasive, sometimes it passes into the blood and can reach the brain. This infection is very fast and if it is very virulent, you can die from it.
Those affected have all frequented the same nightlife establishment, the bar Le live-club in Strasbourg. One of them died, the other three were treated with antibiotic treatment.
“When we go to see patients with meningitis, we wear a surgical mask. It’s a very effective barrier.”Doctor Nicolas Lefèbvre, infectiology department of the NHC of Strasbourg
Very strong headaches, red pimples on the skin, sensitivity to light, vomiting, abdominal pain are symptoms of meningococcal infection. (Be careful, chickenpox, measles, mumps, a primary HIV infection, among others, can create these same symptoms.)
There are acute meningitis and chronic meningitis (much rarer), On its site, health insurance specifies ” chronic meningitis persists for more than a month and is caused by inflammatory or cancerous diseases, or by prolonged infectious pathologies occurring in immunocompromised people. There are also meningitis non-infectious, linked for example to a autoimmune disease or to a cancer metastasis.
“When we go to see cases or suspicion of meningitis, we wear a surgical mask,” says Nicolas Lefèbvre,“It is a very effective barrier and otherwise we have the possibility of vaccinating against meningococcal epidemics. Today, the population affected is that of the nocturnal festive environment of the center of Strasbourg, so we could consider vaccinating a very targeted population to prevent the appearance of this bacterium.
But we are not there yet, simple preventive measures seem sufficient according to this specialist: “The bacterium manifests itself in a flu-like picture, sometimes associated with very intense headaches and the appearance of pimples that do not disappear when pressed. So, if you have a concern, you must contact your doctor urgently or call 15.
It should also be known that the epidemic can progress silently during the latency period when healthy carriers can transmit it. Wearing the mask and being attentive to possible symptoms, to react quickly is therefore recommended, especially since the treatment is very effective, if administered quickly.