by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges. These are the layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can be deadly if it is not treated within hours.
The infection is caused can be caused by many types of bacteria. It is passed from an infection person through:
Things that may raise the risk of this health problem are:
These symptoms can start over many hours or take 1 to 2 days:
Other symptoms may be:
Babies may also have these symptoms:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
These tests may be done to look for signs of infection:
Images may be taken with a CT scan in some people.
Medicines will be given to treat the infection. These may be:
Vaccines are the best way to prevent some types of bacterial meningitis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meningitis Foundation of American
Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada
Bacterial meningitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bacterial-meningitis-in-adults. Updated July 3, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2019.
Bacterial meningitis in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated August 22, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2019.
McGill F, Heyderman RS, et al. Acute bacterial meningitis in adults. Lancet. 2016 Dec 17;388(10063):3036-3047.
Meningitis and encephalitis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Meningitis-and-Encephalitis-Fact-Sheet. Updated August 13, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2019.
Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated May 31, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 8/12/2020
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