Everything You Need to Know About Meningitis B

Meningitis B is a rare type of meningitis that can be life-threatening for those who contract it. Meningitis is an inflammation of your meninges, which are the tissues that surround your brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is typically caused by a virus, but it can also be caused by a bacterial infection.

The most common type of bacteria that causes meningitis is called Neisseria meningitidis. There are different groups of N. meningitidis, and group B is the most common. This group is often referred to as “meningitis B’ or “MenB”.

Meningitis B can progress rapidly, and 10-15 percent of people who become infected will die from the disease. Of those who survive, 10-20 percent will have permanent physical, cognitive or psychological deficits, such as deafness, amputations or brain damage.

Read on to find out some basic information about this disease, symptoms to watch out for and how to protect yourself.

HOW COMMON IS MENINGITIS B?

Meningitis B is a rare disease. Incidence rates vary by country, but currently about 600-1000 people in the United States contract some form of meningococcal disease each year, including meningitis B and other strains of meningitis-causing bacteria. That’s approximately 1 person in every 440,000 people in the US.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

Meningitis B predominantly affects infants, children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the age groups at highest risk include infants under one year old and young adults between the ages of 16-23.

Additional risk factors can include:

  • Having a compromised immune system
  • Exposure to an outbreak in your community
  • History of smoking
  • Previous infection with influenza type A
  • Living in “closed” communities, such as university residences or military barracks

HOW DO YOU GET MENINGITIS B?

The main cause of meningitis B infection is prolonged, close contact with an infected person, such as kissing, coughing, sneezing or sharing utensils. Often, someone who carries meningitis-causing bacteria is not symptomatic.

Between 5 and 11 percent of adults, and 25 percent of teenagers, carry meningitis-causing bacteria harmlessly in their throats. Meningitis B infection can only arise if those bacteria get into your blood or spinal fluid.

It’s not currently understood how this happens, or why meningitis B develops in some individuals and not others. But the risk factors mentioned above make a significant difference.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MENINGITIS B?

Meningitis B progresses rapidly and can become life-threatening within 24 hours of infection. That means early detection of meningitis B is critical. Treatment can be very successful as long as it’s given early enough in the progression of the disease.

The Meningitis Research Foundation conducted a study on the early symptoms of all types of bacterial meningitis, including meningitis B. Bacterial meningitis can also be called meningococcal meningitis. They discovered that most symptoms in the first 4-8 hours of infection are similar to many viral illnesses, such as colds and influenza.

But, the next phase of meningococcal meningitis becomes more distinct. This starts approximately 8-9 hours after infection. Signs and symptoms to watch out for in this phase include:

  • Limb pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale or mottled skin
  • Rash or pinprick spots on skin
  • Drowsiness
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Inactivity or lack of responsiveness

Advanced symptoms that can appear within 12-15 hours after infection include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on top of a baby’s head)
  • Disorientation or confusion

If you or a loved one experience any of the above symptoms, seek treatment immediately.

IS THERE A VACCINE FOR MENINGITIS B?

Some countries have approved vaccines for certain types of meningococcal meningitis, including meningitis B. These can offer protection against meningitis B, especially for infants and young adults. Ask your doctor if a vaccine is available in your country and if they would recommend one for you or your child.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT MENINGITIS B?

Aside from getting a vaccine, the best prevention for meningitis B is knowing the early symptoms.

Concerningly, a study by Alphega Pharmacy found that 68 percent of those aged 16-24, and 11 percent of their parents, failed to identify meningitis B when shown its symptoms within the first 24 hours. Missing this initial phase of the disease can be fatal, so it’s important to become more aware of the early signs of meningitis B.

Another important finding of the study was that one in four parents of 16-24-year-olds have sought medical help because of a “gut instinct.” And it turned out that 80 percent of those parents were right to seek treatment. Those early symptoms that just felt wrong were actually signs of a more serious health problem.

Keep in mind that if something seems wrong, there’s a good chance it is. Always follow your instincts and visit a doctor as soon as any concerning signs or symptoms arise.

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41 comments

Lara A
Lara A18 days ago

Many thanks

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Anna R
Alice Rabout a month ago

thanks for the article

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Thomas M
Thomas Mabout a month ago

tyfs

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Peter B
Kevin B1 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Lara A
Lara A1 months ago

Thanks for this

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Daniel N
Daniel N2 months ago

thanks

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Gino C
Gino C4 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Angela K
Angela K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson4 months ago

Thank you.

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Helen C
Helen C5 months ago

Good to know, thanks

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