spinal meningitis

This is the lay term for meningitis caused by the "meningococcus," Neiserria meningitidis.

Actually, all politics are local and all meningitis is "spinal," since the infectious agent circulates freely through the medium of the spinal fluid between the brain and spinal cord.

Meningococcal meningitis is highly contagious by the respiratory route (you get it by breathing air that contains the germs, which are freely shed from the mucous membranes). It is particularly easy to transmit if conditions are crowded, for example in army barracks or college dormitories. Preventative antibiotics are routinely given to all contacts of the identified patient to prevent their colonization with the germ. In case you have not guessed by now, yes, smoking is a risk factor for catching the disease.

Meningococcal disease is especially frightening to doctors, because no matter how ardently we search for it, every once in a while we will miss a case, with fatal results. This is because the disease can start so insidiously, mimicing a trivial viral illness, with few if any definite symptoms. Luckily, the disease is rare, and if contracted and diagnosed in time, 100% curable in just a few days with no lasting effects from the meningitis (unlike most other forms of meningitis, where some handicap is often the result of infection).

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