©Arlene R. Taylor PhD Realizations Inc
“Did you catch the news item about a man who died of bacterial meningitis that he reportedly caught at a gym?” Nancy slid into the booth across from me, her words tumbling out over each other. “All three of my boys work out at a local gym, one even has a job there. I’m really concerned about this. Tell me about meningitis.”
“Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the meninges, those three protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria. In this man’s case, it appears that a bacteria was the causative agent and bacterial forms are typically more severe.”
Her next question was, “Is meningitis common?”
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers have been decreasing likely because several vaccines are now available for bacteria that can cause meningitis. Some estimate that these vaccines have reduced the incidence by about 90 percent. Data from 2011 indicated that about 4,000 cases occurred in the United States, 500 of which were fatal. Most people who contract meningitis do recover. However, it is a very serious condition. A number of problems can result from the infection, including brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. At times, meningitis can be so deadly that death occurs in just a few hours.”
Obviously anxious with brow furrowed, Nancy removed paper and pen from her bag. “How does this disease spread and what’s the treatment?”
“First, the good news is that most of the forms of bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as the viruses that cause the common cold or the flu. The bacteria tend to hide in droplets of fluid in the throat and nose. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, laughs, or even talks, the droplets can leave the body, and if you’re close enough—say within a few feet—and breathe in the droplets or get them on your hands and then touch your nose or mouth, you may become infected. It can also be spread by saliva during close or lengthy contact such as coughing or kissing. And, unlike other types of bacteria, it is possible to contract meningitis from eating food contaminated by a bacteria by the name of Listeria monocytogenes.” Nancy nodded and wrote a note on her paper.
“Second,” I continued, “a number of antibiotics are available to treat bacterial meningitis but it’s important that treatment be started as soon as possible. In addition, antibiotics may be recommended by your physician or Health Department for family members who are at increased risk or close contacts of a person with meningococcal meningitis.”
“I suppose this means that prevention beats cure,” said Nancy. “Seems that can apply to a lot of things. I heard a doctor say ‘you don’t inhale sweat,’ so someone at the gym might have spread the bacteria by coughing. How can my boys prevent catching this?”
“It would be helpful, of course,” I replied, smiling, “if people stayed away from the gym when they were sick. Personally, I try to keep a distance of three or four feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. I appreciate the people who are careful to cough or sneeze into the crook of their arm to reduce the amount of droplets that are spewed into the air. If I were using gym machines I would likely want to wipe off the hand grips.”
“Oh, like some stores provide disinfectant wipes to use on grocery-cart handles,” said Nancy. “My mom told me to wash your hands before eating and after you using the toilet. When I use a public restroom I’m always amazed at how many people leave without washing their hands!” She shuddered.
“My mother taught me the same thing,” I said. “She also told me to use my own eating utensils and straws and not share them or food with others. That’s still good advice, too.”
“Our neighbor, a pharmacist, told the boys to take very good care of their immune system,” said Nancy. “But I thought the immune system was separate from the brain.”
“Pretty much everyone did—until quite recently,” I replied. “Emerging research has shown that the same protective coverings that become inflamed with meningitis, are filled with immune system vessels. This means there is a direct connection between the brain and the immune system. I agree that keeping the immune system as healthy as possible is important. For me, that means avoiding sugar and minimizing the use of refined foods in favor of whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains. In addition, I take EnerPrimeTM every day, because its micronutrients help support both my immune system and my brain and nervous system.”
“I used to take EnerPrime™!” exclaimed Nancy. “But my boys said they didn’t need that green stuff and I gradually let it slide.” She laughed. “I’m going to order another supply and I’ll bet my boys start taking it this time, too!”