Meningitis is an infection that often causes severe swelling of the meninges, or tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Common symptoms in anyone over the age of 2 may include high fever, headache and stiff neck. For infants, these symptoms may be absent or difficult to detect. Other infant symptoms include irritability, vomiting, or poor feeding behavior.1
The 2 most common types of meningitis are bacterial and viral.1
Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.
Viral meningitis is rarely fatal. People with viral meningitis usually recover within 7 to 10 days.
Since the symptoms of viral meningitis and bacterial meningitis are often very similar, it is important to seek urgent medical attention right away if you think you or your child may have meningitis.
Bacterial meningitis: 3 different causes.
- Before the 1990s, Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Today, routine vaccination against Hib has greatly reduced its occurrence1
- Streptococcus pneumoniae is commonly called pneumococcal bacteria. Since routine pneumococcal vaccination of infants began in the US in 2000, rates of pneumococcal disease caused by the 7 serogroups included in the vaccine have fallen by 99%3
- Neisseria meningitidis is commonly known as meningococcal bacteria. It remains a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the US2
In this site, we focus on 2 types of infection caused by meningococcal bacteria: meningococcal meningitis and meningococcemia, collectively known as meningococcal disease. About 1 in 10 people who contract these infections will die from them, even with appropriate treatment. Learn more about these rare but potentially devastating conditions.