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Meningitis Types

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


Meningitis Explained

Meningitis is actually an inflammation of the fluid and the thin membrane that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain. This inflammation is typically caused by some type of infection. This can occur at any age, but newborns are more susceptible. Acute bacterial meningitis is a major cause of high morbidity and mortality worldwide. There are several causes of meningitis, and they do not all have horrible outcomes as some heal without medication.

While any person can have meningitis, the highest rate is seen in children under 1 year old and among teenagers between 16 and 23 years old.

Types of Meningitis

Meningitis can be life-threatening, and emergency antibiotic medications are required. Outcomes depend on the cause, which include:

Viral meningitis often disappears on its own and is caused by viruses that include HIV or the Nile virus. This is the least severe meningitis, and it is the cause of most cases in the United States.

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by a variety of bacteria, and it is the most severe. This occurs when bacteria lodged in another part of the body dislodges and travels through the bloodstream entering the spinal cord or brain. Some of the bacteria include:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, typically from pneumonia or an ear infection and it is most common in newborns.
  • Neisseria meningitidis is a bacteria from the respiratory system, and it is most common in adolescents and young adults. This is very contagious.
  • Haemophilus monocytogenes (hemophiliac) was more common before there were vaccines.
  • Listeria monocytogenes (listeria) is a bacteria found in unpasteurized cheeses or unprocessed meats. The most vulnerable populations are pregnant women, newborns, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems.

Fungal meningitis is one of the rarest; however, it can be complicated like bacterial meningitis. It is not contagious, but it can be acquired by inhaling fungal spores that can be found in decomposing wood or bird droppings. It mainly affects people with weak immune systems, such as HIV patients.

Parasitic meningitis is also related to cerebral malaria and is acquired by swimming in stagnant freshwater or eating contaminated food. It is not transmitted between people affected by the disease.

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious type of bacterial meningitis, which can be lethal..

Streptococcus pneumoniae—a causative bacteria of meningitis

Streptococcus pneumoniae—a causative bacteria of meningitis

Meningococcal Meningitis Facts

Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection with a high fatality rate (up to 50% when not treated). Treating this condition quickly is essential for a good outcome. Meningococcal meningitis occurs worldwide, with the largest number of cases occurring in the belt of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia.

The meningococcal A conjugate vaccine has been available since 2010, and there are mass preventative immunization campaigns in Africa. WHO’s goal is to eliminate this problem by 2030. Over 50,000 cases have occured in India, with 3,000 deaths, over the past 10 years,

This bacteria is transmitted from person to person by nasal droplets or throat secretions from carriers. Any close or prolonged contact facilitates the spread of this disease.

The incubation time is typically 4 days, but it can range from 2 to 10 days.

Why is Meningitis So Dangerous?

Meningitis Signs and Symptoms

The early symptoms of meningitis can mimic influenza. Typical signs and symptoms in anyone that is older than age 2 include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Sudden high fever
  • Severe headache (different from your normal headache)
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of appetite or thirst
  • Sleepiness or walking difficulty
  • Skin rash

Newborns and infants may have slightly different signs:

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  • Constant crying
  • High fever
  • Excessive sleepiness or irritability
  • Difficulty with waking from a nap
  • Does not want to eat or poor feeding
  • Vomiting
  • Inactive or sluggish
  • Stiffness in the neck and the body
  • A bulge in soft spot on the top of the babies head
Lumbar Puncture

Lumbar Puncture

Diagnosis and Treatment

A spinal tap is the only way to definitely diagnose meningitis. The spinal fluid will often have a low glucose level, along with an increased white blood cell count and increased protein. Blood cultures are done to look for microorganisms, particularly specific bacteria.

Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be ordered for the head, which could show swelling or inflammation. Chest X-rays or CT scans of the chest or sinuses may also show infection associated with meningitis.

It is important to see a physician with any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Severe, unrelenting headache
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting

As bacterial meningitis is very serious, and it can even be fatal, so early treatment is important. It should be treated with intravenous antibiotics and sometimes corticosteroids. The antibiotic depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection. This treatment speeds up recovery and helps prevent seizures.

There is no antibiotic to treat viral meningitis, but corticosteroids may be prescribed. This type of meningitis usually improves on its own. Recommendations include:

  1. Bedrest
  2. Adequate fluids
  3. OTC pain medications

Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal medications, and a combination of specific antibiotics can treat tuberculous meningitis.

An allergic reaction or someone with an autoimmune disease is often treated with corticosteroids. A cancer-related meningitis would require a treatment specific to the cancer.

How Meningitis Spreads | WebMD

Final Throughts

Spinal meningitis is a serious illness. Treatments are specific to the cause of the meningitis. Some types of meningitis are easily treated with bacterial meningitis being the most serious. There are several ongoing medical studies


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 04, 2021:

Hi Mel,

I think you are probably at a very low risk for this disease. I am glad you found this article to be informative.

Thank you for your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 04, 2021:

Another shocking and informative medical revelation by you. I had always heard meningitis was carried by pigeons. I don't see any here in this town, so that is a relief, but we have plenty of geese, so who knows. Great work.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

Meningitis is a scary disease. I'm glad your uncle survived.

The bulk of the people in the United States do not get the bacterial meningitis, so a greater percentage of people recover.

The diagnosis is difficult as as a spinal tap is not fun. I had one once, but I didn't have any side effects.

I am glad you found this article interesting. I appreciate your nice comments, as always. I thought that was the best video, as I watched several.

Stay safe and healthy!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on August 03, 2021:


Meningitis is a scary & frightening disease.

I remember an uncle who was hospitalized with it, but he recovered.

It makes one wonder whenever he has a stiff neck and a headache.

It's not something easily diagnosed since you need a spinal tap.

The thought of that alone makes me cringe.

Knowledgeable & interesting write.

The video really does explain how it spreads.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

Yes, it is a good idea. Thank you for commenting.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 03, 2021:

As a senior, develnping my immunity is a priority.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Linda,

This is a frightening disease. The good news is you are probably at very low risk. I am glad you found the information written well.

Thank you for your comments, my friend.

Stay safe and healthy!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 03, 2021:

Pamela, this sounds absolutely dreadful. I can understand how this disease might occur in unsanitary conditions, but that doesn't explain all the other cases. You've explained it very well, and it's frightening.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Shauna,

You make a very good point that I had not really thought much about. I do think "healthy" eaters could get in trouble that way.

I am glad you found this article informative. I appreciate your comments.

Stay safe and healthy!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 03, 2021:

Pamela, this is a very informative article. My first thought went to those who consume raw milk products, as many "healthy" eaters are doing these days. Even the foods we consume can be dangerous if not handled properly.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Ms Dora,

I don't thonk you have much risk of getting meningitis, but it is alwaays good to learn new information. I'm glad you found this article to be helpful.

I appreciate your comments. Stay healthy!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 03, 2021:

Thanks for including all these details on the various types of meningitis. Quite a lesson. Very helpful.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Nithya,

I agree that some people are against the vaccine. If you live in an area where meningitis is prevalent, they should get the vaccine for sure.

It is contagious. You make a good point. Thank you so much for reading and for your comments.

Stay safe and healthy!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 03, 2021:

Thank you for this informative article about meningitis. Vaccination is the only way to prevent and control the spread of meningitis and it is sad that some people are totally against vaccination. They endanger themselves and others around them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

You are exactly right. I don't really understand why it is more prevalent in desert areas, and the treatment does depend on the cause.

I'm glad you found this article to be interesting. Thank you so much for your nice comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Bill,

That is a heartbreaking story for a mother of two. I can understand why you still feel sad about this death.

We have so many people from around the world on Hubpages now, and I thought this is a good topic as it is more prevalent in other countries.

I appreciate your comments, my friend. Stay healthy, as it is a little harder to do these days.

Rosina S Khan on August 03, 2021:

It seems meningitis is easily treated or serious depending on the type. I got educated on the types, signs, and symptoms and diagnosis and treatment. Thank you, Pamela, for an interesting and important article and for bringing us an awareness of the disease.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 03, 2021:

I had an ex-student and friend die of this a few year back. She was 38 at the time, so sudden, four days after any symptoms appeared. A mother of two. To this day I find her death extremely sad. Yes, it can be deadly. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

manatita44 from london on August 03, 2021:

Lovely! So detailed and informative! Bless you, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Olusengun,

Since this is common in the desert areas, I hope the vaccine is available for those at risk. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

Thank you for your comments. Stay safe and healthy.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on August 03, 2021:

Wow! This is scholarly presented. Very good. It is said to be common in desert areas around my country, and while in training those days the lecturers would say when you go to areas like that one of the things to always rule out is this disease.

Thanks for this, I enjoyed reading this article Pamela and the photos there are essentially educational too.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

I feel the same way about the dangers. I didn't realize that this could be such a contagious disease. I hope the students get vaccinated also.

Thanks so much for your comments. Stay safe and healthy.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 03, 2021:

This just strikes me that we live in such a dangerous world. The information you present is extremely interesting. Gosh, I hope college kids get vaccinated for this before they go to school.

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