Meningitis Causes, Prevention, Symptoms And Treatment


An infection and inflammation of the fluid and membranes encasing the brain and spinal cord are known as meningitis. These membranes are known as meninges.

Headache, fever, and stiff neck are common symptoms of inflammation linked to meningitis. Infection with a virus is the main cause of meningitis. Nevertheless, parasites, bacteria, and fungi can also cause it. In a few weeks, some meningitis cases get better on their own. Others might be fatal and need prompt antibiotic treatment.

If you think you may have meningitis or someone in your family does get medical help right away. Serious complications can be avoided with prompt treatment of bacterial meningitis.


Meningitis is most frequently caused by viral infections. Following bacterial infections are occasionally fungal and parasitic diseases. As bacterial infections can be lethal, figuring out the cause is essential.

Meningitis due to bacteria

Bacterial meningitis is brought on by bacteria that enter the bloodstream and go to the brain and spinal cord. Nevertheless, bacterial meningitis can also develop when bacteria enter the meninges directly. This could be caused by an ear or sinus infection, a skull fracture, or — very rarely — by some treatments.

Bacterial meningitis can be brought on by a variety of strains, most frequently by:

Pneumococcus streptococcal. The most prevalent cause of bacterial meningitis in infants, young children, and adults is this bacterium. Infections in the lungs, sinuses, or ears are more common outcomes. Vaccination may be beneficial.

Meningitis caused by Neisseria. Meningococcal meningitis is bacterial meningitis that is brought on by this bacterium. These bacteria often cause upper respiratory infections, but they can also cause meningococcal meningitis when they enter the circulation. Teenagers and young adults are the main groups affected by this sickness, which is quite contagious. It might cause small-scale outbreaks at boarding schools, military sites, and college residence halls.

A vaccination may aid in illness prevention. Everyone who has come into contact with someone who has meningococcal meningitis, regardless of vaccination status, should take an oral antibiotic to ward off the infection.

Influenza-causing Haemophilus. Historically, bacterial meningitis in children was mostly caused by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Nonetheless, the incidence of this type of meningitis has significantly decreased as a result of new Hib vaccines.

Monocytogenes listeria.

Cheeses, hot dogs, and lunch meats that have not been pasteurized all contain these microorganisms. The most vulnerable groups include pregnant women, new parents, seniors and those with compromised immune systems. Listeria can cross the placenta during pregnancy. The infant could die from infections in the late stages of pregnancy.

Meningitis virus

Most of the time, viral meningitis is mild and resolves independently. An organisation of viruses called enteroviruses is responsible for most infections. Throughout the late summer and early fall, they are most prevalent. Viral meningitis can also be brought on by viruses such as the West Nile virus, the mumps virus, the herpes simplex virus, and HIV.

Persistent meningitis

Slow-growing organisms like fungus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis can result in chronic meningitis, a long-lasting case. They encroach upon the membranes.

as well as the fluid around the brain. Meningitis which is chronic takes at least two weeks to develop. Acute meningitis, which is a sudden, fresh case, has symptoms that are comparable. They consist of headaches, fever, nausea, and mental fog.

Bacterial meningitis

Acute bacterial meningitis may be mimicked. Inhaling fungal spores that can be found in soil, rotting wood, and bird droppings are frequently how it is contracted.

No one can contract fungal meningitis from another individual. A typical fungal type of illness is cryptococcal meningitis. It affects those whose immune systems are compromised due to diseases like AIDS. If not treated with an antifungal medication, it might be fatal. Meningitis caused by fungi may recur despite treatment.

Managerial meningitis

A particularly uncommon form of Eosinophilic meningitis is a kind of meningitis. Moreover, cerebral malaria or a tapeworm infection in the brain can result in parasitic meningitis. Rare amoebic meningitis, which can swiftly become fatal, is sometimes acquired while swimming in freshwater.

The primary meningitis-causing parasites typically affect mammals. Usually, these parasites infect people through the foods they eat. No one can contract parasitic meningitis from another person.

Other causes of meningitis

Noninfectious factors can also cause meningitis. Chemical reactions, medication allergies, certain cancers, and inflammatory conditions like sarcoidosis are among them.

How to check if you have Meningitis?

Please seek medical assistance, if you or a member of your family exhibits meningitis symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Fever.
  • An excruciating headache that will not go away.
  • Confusion.
  • Vomiting.
  • Rigid neck.

Without immediate antibiotic treatment, bacterial meningitis is dangerous and can result in death in a matter of days. Permanent brain damage is also more likely when treatment is delayed.

If you have come into contact with someone who has meningitis, it is equally crucial to consult your doctor. That may be a member of your family, a neighbour, or a coworker. To avoid contracting an infection, you might need to take medication.

Risk Factors

Meningitis risk factors include:

Not getting vaccinated. Anyone who has not finished the prescribed adult or childhood vaccination schedule is at increased risk.

Age. The majority of viral meningitis cases affect youngsters under the age of five. In people under the age of 20, bacterial meningitis is frequent.

Living in a group of people. Meningococcal meningitis is more common among dorm-dwelling college students, military personnel, and children in boarding schools and daycare centres. This is most likely a result of the bacterium's rapid spread through crowded areas via the respiratory pathway.

Pregnancy. The chance of contracting a listeria infection, which can also result in meningitis, rises during pregnancy. Premature birth, stillbirth, and miscarriage are all made more likely by the infection.


The flu-like symptoms of early meningitis could exist. The onset of symptoms can take several hours or several days.

Anybody older than 2 years old may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden onset of a fever.
  • Rigid neck.
  • Migraine or headache.
  • Vomiting or nauseous.
  • Confusion or difficulty focusing.
  • Seizures.
  • Drowsiness or difficulty waking up.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • No thirst or appetite.

There may be a skin rash in rare circumstances, such as meningococcal meningitis.

Infants and newborns may exhibit these symptoms:

  • Continuous sobbing.
  • Being extremely sleepy or agitated.
  • Difficulty getting out of bed.
  • Being passive or lame.
  • Not getting up to eat.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Vomiting.
  • A protrusion in the baby's head's soft area.
  • Rigidity in the neck and body.


Coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing cigarettes, toothbrushes, or eating utensils are all ways that common bacteria or viruses that cause meningitis might spread.

Some actions can aid in meningitis prevention:

Sanitize your hands. Washing your hands thoroughly can help stop the spread of germs. Encourage children to frequently wash their hands, especially before and after using the lavatory, being around a lot of people, or stroking animals. Teach them the proper technique for washing and rinsing their hands.

Maintain proper hygiene. Never share anything with anyone else, including toothbrushes, lip balms, straws, or dining utensils. Instruct children and teenagers not to share these things as well.

Remain healthy. Maintain your immune system by getting adequate sleep, working out frequently, and eating a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Keep your mouth shut. When you cough or sneeze, remember to cover your mouth and nose.

If you are expecting, watch what you eat. Meat, particularly hot dogs and deli meat should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to lower your risk of contracting listeria (74 degrees Celsius). Steer clear of cheeses made from raw milk. Choose cheeses that are manufactured with pasteurised milk and are clearly marked as such.


The type of meningitis you or your child gets will determine the course of treatment.

Meningitis due to bacteria

Intravenous antibiotics and occasionally corticosteroids must be administered right away to treat acute bacterial meningitis. This raises the possibility of recovery and decreases the likelihood of issues like brain enlargement and seizures.

Antibiotics or combinations of antibiotics may be provided depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection. Your doctor might suggest prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic once the particular cause of meningitis has been determined.

Any infected mastoids, the bones that link the middle ear to the sinuses behind the outer ear, may be drained by your healthcare professional.

Meningitis virus

Viral meningitis cannot be cured by antibiotics, and the majority of patients get better on their own in a few weeks. Therapy for viral meningitis in mild instances often includes:

  • Rest in bed.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Painkillers to ease body pains and lower temperature.

Your doctor might recommend corticosteroids to lessen brain swelling as well as medication to stop seizures. If a herpes virus led to your meningitis, there is medication to treat the virus.

Meningitis of different forms

If you have meningitis but do not know what caused it, you can begin antiviral and antibiotic treatment while the reason is discovered.

The underlying aetiology of persistent meningitis determines the course of treatment. Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal medications. Tuberculous meningitis can be treated with a mix of certain medications. Treatment may be postponed until a laboratory can prove that the cause is fungal, but these medications have substantial adverse effects that may make it necessary.

Meningitis that is not contagious because of an allergic reaction or Corticosteroids can be used to treat autoimmune diseases. Sometimes there may be no need for therapy because the condition will go away on its own. Meningitis brought on by cancer necessitates treatment for that cancer.

Complications of Meningitis

Serious complications from meningitis can occur. The risk of seizures and long-term brain impairment increases with the length of time that you or your child suffer the illness without receiving treatment. Other possible complications include:

  • Loss of hearing.
  • Memory issues.
  • Learning challenges.
  • Brain injury.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Seizures.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Shock.
  • Death.
  • Even those with severe meningitis can make a full recovery with proper treatment.


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Page last reviewed: Mar 30, 2023

Next review due: Mar 30, 2025

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