Bacterial meningitis is a serious class of infectious meningitis diseases affecting the membranes of the brain and spinal cord. It can cause permanent body or brain damage and in some cases can be rapidly fatal.

One rare type of bacterial meningitis is salmonella meningitis, which is caused by Salmonella bacteria.

Salmonella meningitis is a kind of bacterial meningitis. Salmonella meningitis is an uncommon but serious complication of salmonella infection.

Many different strains of Salmonella bacteria live in animals’ intestines. This bacteria can cause infections in people following their exposure to contaminated food, water, soil, or surfaces that harbor feces containing the bacteria. It can also be spread person-to-person via poor hand hygiene.

Salmonella infections vary in their severity and can cause a range of symptoms including abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. When caused by food poisoning, it’s rarely life threatening. The most dangerous Salmonella strains can cause infection of the blood, bones, joints, urine, or nervous system, leading to serious disease.

Some strains of Salmonella cause typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever. In rare cases, those with a Salmonella infection will develop salmonella meningitis.

Salmonella meningitis primarily affects infants, pregnant people, the elderly, and immunocompromised people who are already more prone to serious disease. In areas with high rates of HIV, there are correlating high rates of salmonella meningitis.

Symptoms tend to develop rapidly and escalate quickly.

It’s considered an emergency, and immediate medical attention is required. Bacterial meningitis can be fatal. Rapid treatment can improve the outcome of salmonella meningitis infection. Keep reading to learn to symptoms to look out for.

Can you get salmonella from your pets?

Some species of reptiles, in particular, have been known to spread Salmonella bacteria through their feces, causing infection in pet owners and their families.

Live poultry, including small backyard chicken coops, can also be a reservoir for non-typhoidal Salmonella. Always make sure to wash any eggs gathered with a food-safe soap or let them soak overnight in a vinegar solution.

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Exposure to Salmonella bacteria can occur in a wide variety of ways. Eating or handling contaminated food is a common cause of Salmonella infection. Bacteria from contaminated food can be spread from people’s hands or clothes elsewhere.

Infection may occur if a person with bacteria on their hands touches their face or mouth, or the face or mouth of another person, such as a child.

Some animals, such as cattle, chickens, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria in their bodies without becoming sick. And so, people who handle or live with these animals may be at increased risk of salmonella infection as the bacteria can contaminate food, cages, tanks, and other pet supplies.

Salmonella meningitis in infants

According to medical experts, baby formula can become contaminated with bacteria as it’s being produced. To maintain safety, baby formulas in the United States are routinely screened for bacteria.

However, occasionally small amounts of bacteria may slip through without being detected. This can sometimes cause infections, including salmonella meningitis.

Salmonella meningitis in adults

Adults may come by salmonella meningitis in all the ways previously mentioned, but they may also get a Salmonella infection from their diet. Foods at higher risk of being contaminated by Salmonella include:

  • dairy products, such as raw or unpasteurized milk
  • eggs and egg products that are raw or undercooked
  • fruits and vegetables that are raw
  • meat and poultry that’s raw or undercooked
  • processed food that’s been contaminated at a packaging plant

The best way to avoid salmonella meningitis is to avoid contact with the bacteria. Ensure your food is washed and cooked, filter your water when possible, and wash your hands frequently throughout the day — particularly if you have young children, pets, or work with animals or food.

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Symptoms of salmonella meningitis are similar to other forms of meningitis. They can come on suddenly and escalate quickly. In adults, symptoms include:

In babies and young children, symptoms of salmonella meningitis may include:

When to call your doctor

Salmonella meningitis is an emergency.

If you or someone you know is displaying the symptoms of this infection, try to stay calm, but it’s important that you get treatment as soon as possible. Go to a hospital’s emergency department, or call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

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Following a physical examination, a medical professional may use a lumbar puncture, blood tests, chest X-rays, or a CT scan to diagnose salmonella meningitis. From there, treatment will be started promptly.

The main treatment for salmonella meningitis is antibiotics, which are typically administered through a vein (IV), often over the course of several weeks.

Additional treatments may include IV fluids, oxygen, and medicines to treat serious symptoms of meningitis, such as brain swelling, seizures, and shock. If there are many complications, a long hospital stay may be required.

If you have questions about the treatments that may be required for you, your doctor will be the best source of information on your individual treatment regimen.

Rapid treatment is essential in ensuring the best possible outcome for someone with salmonella meningitis. Many people who receive prompt treatment make a full recovery.

However, if treatment is delayed, a person with salmonella meningitis may be left with serious, permanent physical changes, including:

Infants who experience this disease may need additional follow-up evaluations to ensure they’re getting the support they need in regard to developmental milestones.

There’s a vaccine for the type of salmonella that causes typhoid fever, but no vaccine yet exists to treat all the types of Salmonella that can cause food bone illnesses.

While there’s no vaccine yet for salmonella meningitis, there are vaccines for other bacterias likely to cause meningitis, such as those used against meningococcal, pneumococcal, and Haemophilus influenzae disease.

If you’re immunocompromised, ask your doctor whether any of these vaccinations may be a helpful preventive step for you.

Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in animals’ feces, particularly reptiles and amphibians. People can develop a Salmonella infection by ingesting contaminated food or water or by having contact with animal feces or contaminated surfaces.

It’s best prevented with hygienic pet- and animal-care practices, frequent handwashing, and careful food preparation. Salmonella bacteria can be found in common foods like raw fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and meats — and is easily spread by people and other animals.

Salmonella is fairly common, but developing meningitis from it is rare. This form of meningitis can attack the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, causing the sudden onset of serious symptoms. This development is most often seen in infants or elderly people.

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of salmonella meningitis, go to a hospital’s emergency department or call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Prompt treatment can help greatly reduce a person’s risk of long lasting serious complications or death.