Invasive Meningococcal DiseaseAccording to a study in the journal BNC Public Health, secondhand smoke exposure can double the risk of invasive meningococcal disease, which can lead to bacterial meningitis in children and infants, resulting in death in 5 percent of patients and permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders in one in six patients. The risk is especially high in infants under five years of age.
Pregnant mothers who either smoke or are in proximity to cigarette smoke are also at risk of delivering a child that is three times more likely to develop invasive meningococcal disease than mothers who live in nonsmoking environments.
Invasive meningococcal disease is communicable, and is spread via close contact and fluid exchange. Many people carry the meningococcal bacteria in their throats, but do not go on to become infected with meningitis; exposure to secondhand smoke appears to facilitate infection in children and toddlers, although researchers cannot yet find the cause. Bacterial meningitis is significantly more difficult to treat than viral meningitis, which can often clear itself from the system without medical intervention.
Meningitis SymptomsSymptoms of meningitis are nausea, stiff neck, fever and headache. Long term disabilities stemming from the disease are deafness, brain damage and paralysis. Meningitis is an inflammation of the covering around the spinal cord and brain. While viral meningitis can clear itself without significant medical attention, bacterial meningitis must be treated immediately. If you experience symptoms, visit your physician right away. Bacterial meningitis is typically treated with antibiotics, and occasionally hospitalization, so that the medical team can monitor patients for seizures or signs of brain damage or hearing loss.
Children between the ages of 11 and 18 can be vaccinated against two of the three strains of meningitis. Teenagers that are college age and plan on living in a dormitory should receive a vaccination, since people living in close quarters with recycled air systems are at greater risk of becoming infected than those living alone.
Meningitis isn’t the only diseased caused by the meningococcal bacteria; septicemia, a severe infection of the bloodstream is also caused by meningococcal bacteria. Septicemia, or sepsis, is a serious, often fatal condition that typically occurs in children, people living with compromised immune systems and people ingesting immune-suppressing drugs. Symptoms include fatigue, decrease in urination, nausea, rapid pulse, rapid breathing and high fever.