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Meningitis Overview

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Meningitis-4Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meanings. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs. Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore, the condition is classified as a medical emergency.


The symptoms of meningitis can be confused with the flu, its signs and symptoms may develop over several hours or over one or two days. The common symptoms include:

  • High fever

  • Severe headache that isn’t easily confused with other types of headache

  • Stiff neck

  • Vomiting or nausea with headache

  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating — in the very young, this may appear as inability to maintain eye contact

  • Seizures

  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking up

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Lack of interest in drinking and eating

  • Skin rash in some cases, such as in viral or meningococcal meningitis

Read more about the symptoms of meningitis.


According to Mayo clinic, most cases of meningitis are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections also can lead to meningitis. Depending on the cause of the infection, meningitis can resolve on its own in a couple of weeks — or it can be a life-threatening emergency. Read more about causes of meningitis.

Viral meningitis may improve without treatment in a few days. Bacterial meningitis is serious, can come on very quickly and requires prompt antibiotic treatment to improve the chances of a recovery without serious complications. Delaying treatment for bacterial meningitis increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death. In addition, bacterial meningitis can prove fatal in a matter of days.

Also seek your doctor if a family member or someone you work with has meningitis. You may need to take medications to prevent getting sick. Early treatment can prevent serious complications.


Immunization against some of the organisms that can cause meningitis is the most effective way to prevent the illness. Read more about Tips to Prevent Meningitis

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