Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) around the brain and spinal cord. It can be triggered by an infection, certain drugs, cancer and parasites. The clinical features are fever, petechial rash (only in the mericoccal form), vomiting, trembling, seizures, stiff neck and headache.
Infectious meningitis comes in two common forms: viral meningitis is relatively mild; bacterial meningitis, chiefly transmitted via coughing and sneezing, is life-threatening. Meningococcal meningitis is the most common form, causing epidemics. It has been causing increasing concern in recent years owing to its changing patterns and the rise in prevalence in several parts of the world where it was previously not considered to be a public health problem.
In 1983, 4,000 people of 40,000 infected people died in a meningitis outbreak. In 1996, 10,000 people on the Ivory Coast and in Nigeria died in a 3 month bacterial meningitis epidemic which infected 100,000. Children, the elderly, and women of childbearing age are most likely to die from meningitis. Numerous cases of meningitis have been reported in 14 African countries, including Mali, Niger and Chad.