Meningitis: What you need to know

Meningitis Generic

Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges.

The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs.

Symptoms usually come on quickly, and may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Mental status changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck (meningismus)

Other symptoms that can occur include:

  • Agitation
  • Bulging fontanelles
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Poor feeding or irritability in children
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unusual posture, with the head and neck arched backwards (opisthotonos)

There are 5 types of Meningitis:

1. Bacterial Meningitis

Caused by bacteria, Bacterial Meningitis can be a life-threatening infection that needs immediate medical attention. There are vaccines to prevent some kinds of bacterial meningitis.

Transmission: The germs that cause bacterial meningitis can be contagious. Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing). Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu. Read more >>

2. Viral Meningitis

Caused by viruses, Viral Meningitis is serious, but rarely fatal in people with normal immune systems. Viral meningitis occurs mostly in children younger than age 5.  There are vaccines to prevent some kinds of viral meningitis.

Transmission: Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often spread from person to person through fecal contamination (which can occur when changing a diaper or using the toilet and not properly washing hands afterwards). Enteroviruses can also be spread through respiratory secretions such as saliva nasal mucus. Read more >>

3. Fungal Meningitis

Caused by fungi, Fungal Meningitis is usually acquired by inhaling fungal spores from the environment. People with certain medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or HIV or those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of fungal meningitis. Pre-mature babies with very low birth weights are also at increased risk.

Transmission: Fungal Meningitis is not contagious. It is not transmitted from person to person. People at risk for fungal meningitis acquire the infection usually by inhaling fungal spores from the environment. You may also get fungal meningitis after taking medications that weaken your immune system such as steroids. Read more >>

4. Non-infectious Meningitis

Non-infectious Meningitis can be caused by cancers, lupus, certain drugs, head injury, and brain surgery.

Transmission: Non-infectious Meningitis is not spread from person to person.  Read more >>

5. Parasitic Meningitis

Caused by parasites that can contaminate food, water and soil, Parasitic Meningitis is less common in developed countries.

Transmission: The parasite enters the body through the nose and is caused by the microscopic ameba Naegleria fowleri.  This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers.  Read more >>

Important Links:

Persons by State with Meningitis linked to Epidural Steroid Injections, as of September 10, 2013

State Cases Deaths
Florida 25 7
Georgia 1
Idaho 1
Illinois 2
Indiana 92 11
Maryland 26 3
Michigan 264 19
Minnesota 12 1
New Hampshire 14
New Jersey 51
New York 1
North Carolina 18 1
Ohio 20 1
Pennsylvania 1
Rhode Island 3
South Carolina 3
Tennessee 153 16
Texas 2
Virginia 54 5
West Virginia 7
Totals 750 64
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