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Department of Health News 

This news item expired on 3/31/2008, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.

What is Meningitis?

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What is it Meningitis? Meningitis is an illness in which the tissues that cover the brain or spinal cord become inflamed. There are two types of meningitis- viral and bacterial.

  • Viral meningitis is serious but rarely fatal, goes away without treatment, and usually results in a complete recovery.
  • Bacterial meningitis is much more severe, and if not treated can lead to death.

How is it spread? Bacterial meningitis is contagious and can be spread through:

  • Respiratory secretions such as coughing, kissing or drinking after someone who is infected.
  • If you are in direct contact with someone who has bacterial meningitis, it is important that you see your doctor for medicine to prevent illness.

What are the symptoms? The signs and symptoms of both viral and bacterial meningitis include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light

In infants, the symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Irritable or fussy
  • Feeding poorly
  • Less active

Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. You should see a doctor immediately if you have these symptoms.

How is it treated? Meningitis can be treated with antibiotics, but it is important that it is caught early.

What else is important to remember? A vaccine is now recommended for children beginning at 11 years of age, to help prevent meningitis. The vaccine is especially important for those going to college, military recruits or travelers to countries where meningitis is common.

For more information, visit:

www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/meningococcal_g.htm