An infection of the membranes that surround the brain and/or spinal cord.

My unfortunate recent experience with meningitis manifested itself as an unrelenting headache only mildly affected my any kind of painkilling medication which I tried to apply. Because it was viral, and not bacterial, there was nothing to be done. Bacterial meningitis can be treated by antibiotics, but obviously viruses are unaffected.

I was significantly worried when my friends used words like "survival rate" when referring to the disease, but as it turns out, viral meningitis is not very serious; it's more or less a two-week-long headache.

Bacterial meningitis, however, is much more severe, and should be treated with great speed. Otherwise, serious neurological damage could result.

Meningitis causes:

  • Haemophilus (Haemophilus influenzae): this type of infection is generally considered to be eliminated due to early vaccination of babies.
  • Pneumococcal / Meningococcal: the most common causes in the bacterial type of meningitis. Both bacterias are common to the human body, and reside in the back of the throat and nose.
  • Streptococcus: The main cause of blood infection and meningitis in newborns, pregnant women, elderly people and adults with diabetes. The infection can be deadly to babies.

  • Cryptococcus: Cryptococcus is an environmental organism. It is found throughout the world and human infections happen after inhalation of small fungal cells spread on air currents. In people with a weakened immune system it survives and infects other parts of the body.

    Viral meningitis is more common than the bacterial variant but is generally less serious. The most common are the enterovirusses (found in sewage/faeces/poluted water).


While it's the meninges that are inflamed in meningitis, the infection actually occurs in the spinal fluid between the pia mater and the arachnoid membrane. Bacterial meningitis, also known as spinal meningitis, is the most serious form of meningitis, and can be fatal. It is also communicable.

Another "node your homework"....

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The cause of this inflammation is infection with either bacteria or viruses.

Meningitis caused by viruses is usually a self-limiting illness. The viruses involved are usually either entero- or rhinoviruses, in other words the viruses that cause stomach ailments and the common cold. The symptoms of viral meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, fatigue, rash and sore throat. Viral meningitis is usually not communicable. Antibiotics are not helpful, and antivirals are usually not necessary except in severe cases. Supportive care includes pain medications, occasionally corticosteroids, fluids and rest. Lumbar puncture is the diagnostic test used to differentiate between viral and bacterial meningitis.

Meningitis caused by a bacterial infection (sometimes called spinal meningitis) is one of the most serious types, sometimes leading to permanent brain damage or even death. Bacterial meningitis is most commonly caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal meningitis), Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Haemophilus influenzae serotype b (H. flu meningitis). These bacteria are carried in the upper back part of the throat (called the nasopharynx) of an infected person and are spread either through the air (when the person coughs or sneezes organisms into the air) or by direct contact with secretions from the nasopharynx of the infected person. However, transmission usually occurs only after very close contact with the infected person.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include sudden onset of fever, headache, neck pain or stiffness, vomiting (often without abdominal complaints), and irritability. These symptoms may quickly progress to decreased consciousness (difficulty in being aroused), convulsions, and death. For this reason, if any child displays symptoms of possible meningitis, he or she should receive medical care immediately.

Can meningitis be treated?

Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. It is important, however, that treatment be started early in the course of the disease. Appropriate antibiotic treatment of most common types of bacterial meningitis should reduce the risk of dying from meningitis to below 15%, although the risk is higher among the elderly.

Is meningitis contagious?

Yes, some forms are bacterial meningitis are contagious. The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (i.e., coughing, kissing). Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.

However, sometimes the bacteria that cause meningitis have spread to other people who have had close or prolonged contact with a patient with meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis (also called meningococcal meningitis) or Hib. People in the same household or day-care center, or anyone with direct contact with a patient's oral secretions (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend) would be considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningitis caused by N. meningitidis should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease. Antibiotics for contacts of a person with Hib meningitis disease are no longer recommended if all contacts 4 years of age or younger are fully vaccinated against Hib disease (see below).

Clinical Features: Fever, headache and stiff neck in meningitis cases, and sepsis and rash in meningococcemia.
Etiologic Agent: Multiple serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis.
Incidence: Up to 2% in epidemics. During 1996-1997, 213,658 cases with 21,830 deaths were reported in west African countries. 0.5-5/100,000 for endemic disease, worldwide in distribution
Sequelae: 10%-15% of cases are fatal. Of patients who recover 10% have permanent hearing loss or other serious sequelae.
Transmission: Occurs through direct contact with respiratory secretions from a nasopharyngeal carrier case-patient.
Risk Group: Risk groups include general population (for epidemics), infants and young children (for endemic disease), refugees, household contacts of case patients, military personnel, college freshmen (particularly those living in dormitories), and people exposed to active and passive tobacco smoke.

Men`in*gi"tis (?), n. [NL. See Meninges, and -itis.] Med.

Inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord.

Cerebro-spinal meningitis. See under Cerebro-spinal.


© Webster 1913.

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