Information for Patients
Meningitis is inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. There are several types of meningitis. The most common is viral meningitis. You get it when a virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and travels to the brain. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but can be deadly. It usually starts with bacteria that cause a cold-like infection. It can cause stroke, hearing loss, and brain damage. It can also harm other organs. Pneumococcal infections and meningococcal infections are the most common causes of bacterial meningitis.
Anyone can get meningitis, but it is more common in people with weak immune systems. Meningitis can get serious very quickly. You should get medical care right away if you have
- A sudden high fever
- A severe headache
- A stiff neck
- Nausea or vomiting
Early treatment can help prevent serious problems, including death. Tests to diagnose meningitis include blood tests, imaging tests, and a spinal tap to test cerebrospinal fluid. Antibiotics can treat bacterial meningitis. Antiviral medicines may help some types of viral meningitis. Other medicines can help treat symptoms.
There are vaccines to prevent some of the bacterial infections that cause meningitis.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Viruses are very tiny germs. They are made of genetic material inside of a protein coating. Viruses cause familiar infectious diseases such as the common cold, flu and warts. They also cause severe illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, smallpox, and Ebola.
Viruses are like hijackers. They invade living, normal cells and use those cells to multiply and produce other viruses like themselves. This can kill, damage, or change the cells and make you sick. Different viruses attack certain cells in your body such as your liver, respiratory system, or blood.
When you get a virus, you may not always get sick from it. Your immune system may be able to fight it off.
For most viral infections, treatments can only help with symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections. There are antiviral medicines to treat some viral infections. Vaccines can help prevent you from getting many viral diseases.