3.4.3 Diagnosis and treatment of meningitis
Meningitis is diagnosed by physical examination of the person, and by laboratory testing of the fluid from their spinal cord, where the meningococcal bacteria can be found. In the hospital or health centre, the meningitis is treated using antibiotics given intravenously (IV), that is, liquid antibiotics given directly into the bloodstream through a vein.
Tetanus and meningitis are both diseases in which fever and stiffness of the neck are important symptoms. How could you tell these diseases apart in babies by examining them yourself?
Tetanus and meningitis can both be manifested by fever and neck stiffness, but there are other specific signs of each disease which help in differentiation. For instance, people with tetanus may have tightness of the abdominal muscles and may be unable to open their mouths. By contrast, the bulging fontanelle is a typical sign of meningitis in young babies, which would not be found in cases of tetanus. However, these diseases are very difficult to distinguish on the basis of clinical examination alone.