What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can occur when fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected.

The most common causes of meningitis are viral and bacterial infections. Other causes may include: cancer, chemical irritation, fungi and drug allergies.

Some viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious. They can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact.


The symptoms of meningitis vary depending on the cause, whether it is a bacterial or a viral  infection. The symptoms also depends  on your age.

Viral Meningitis Symptoms

In adults, viral meningitis may cause:



stiff neck


sensitivity to bright light



nausea and vomiting

decreased appetite

Bacterial meningitis symptoms:

Bacterial meningitis symptoms develop suddenly. They may include:

altered mental status

nausea and vomiting

sensitivity to light





stiff neck

purple areas of skin that resemble bruises


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Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms. Bacterial and viral meningitis can be deadly. There’s no way to know if you have bacterial or viral meningitis just by judging how you feel. Your doctor will need to perform tests to determine which type you have.

Fungal meningitis symptoms:

Symptoms of fungal meningitis resemble the other types of this infection. These may include:



sensitivity to light



confusion or disorientation


Each type of meningitis has a slightly different cause, but each ultimately acts in the same way: A bacterium, fungus, virus, or parasite spreads through the bloodstream until it reaches the brain, or spinal cord. There, it sets up in the lining or fluids around these vital body parts and starts developing into a more advanced infection.

Non-infectious meningitis is the result of a physical injury or other condition; it doesn’t involve an infection.


These complications are typically associated with meningitis:


hearing loss

vision loss

memory problems


migraine headaches

brain damage


a subdural empyema, or a buildup of fluid between the brain and the skull

A meningitis infection may produce bacteria in the bloodstream. These bacteria multiply and some release toxins. That can cause blood vessel damage and leaking of blood into the skin and organs.

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The following are some of the risk factors for meningitis:

Compromised immunity:

People with an immune deficiency are more vulnerable to infections. This includes the infections that cause meningitis. Certain disorders and treatments can weaken your immune system. These include:


autoimmune disorders


organ or bone marrow transplants

Cryptococcal meningitis, which is caused by a fungus, is the most common form of meningitis in people with HIV.

Community living

Meningitis is easily spread when people live in close quarters. Being in small spaces increase the chance of exposure. Examples of these locations include:

college dormitories barracks boarding  schools day care centers


Pregnant women have an increased risk of listeriosis, which is an infection caused by the Listeria bacteria. Infection can spread to the unborn child.


All ages are at risk for meningitis. However, certain age groups have a higher risk. Children under the age of 5 are at increased risk of viral meningitis. Infants are at higher risk of bacterial meningitis

Is there a vaccine for meningitis?

Yes, there is a vaccine for several types of bacterial meningitis. Meningococcal meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitis, is one version for which vaccines are available. While viral meningitis is more common, bacterial meningitis can be more dangerous if it’s not diagnosed and treated quickly.

For that reason, the two primary vaccines for meningitis are for bacterial causes. They are the meningococcal conjugate Vaccine and MenB.


Your treatment is determined by the cause of the meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis requires immediate treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment will prevent brain damage and death.


Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re at increased risk, is important. This includes:

Getting adequate amounts of rest Not smoking

Avoiding contact with sick people. If you’ve been in close contact with one or more people who have a bacterial meningococcal infection, your doctor can give you preventive antibiotics. This will decrease your chances of developing the disease.

Vaccinations can also protect against certain types of meningitis. Vaccines that can prevent meningitis include the following:

Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccinepneumococcal conjugate vaccinemeningococcal vaccine

Practicing good personal hygiene may also help you prevent meningitis. Some types of meningitis are spread through close contact with an infected person’s body fluid, such as saliva and nasal secretions. Avoid sharing drinks, utensils, and personal items that may carry saliva or other fluids.

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