by Krisha McCoy, MS
The brain and spinal cord are covered by layers of tissue. These layers are called the meninges. Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges.
It is an urgent issue that will need immediate treatment. Severe infections can lead to death within hours.
The infection is caused by bacteria. There are many different types. Some are more likely to cause a severe infection than others.
Bacteria is most often passed from an infected person through:
Bacterial meningitis is more common in:
Other factors that may increase your chance of getting bacterial meningitis include:
Classic symptoms can develop over several hours or may take 1-2 days:
Other symptoms may include:
Symptoms can be hard to spot in newborns and infants. Infants under 3 months old with a fever are often checked for meningitis. Symptoms in newborns and infants may include:
Complications of bacterial meningitis include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Imaging tests of the brain and spinal cord may be done with:
Immediate care will include:
Most will survive with immediate care.
People usually stay in the hospital until the fever has fallen. The fluid around the spine and the brain will also need to be clear of infection. This may mean several days in the hospital.
Antibiotics are given through an IV. It will be started as soon as the infection is suspected. Tests will be done to find the exact type of bacteria. The type of antibiotics may be changed after the test results are in.
Corticosteroids help to control brain pressure and swelling. It can help to prevent further damage to the brain. This may decrease risk of complications after, like hearing loss.
Fluids can be lost due to fever, sweating, or vomiting. IV fluids will help you until you are feeling better.
Your doctor may also advise:
Steps that may help you reduce your chance of getting bacterial meningitis include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Meningitis Foundation of American
Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada
Bacterial meningitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Bacterial meningitis in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated September 26, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Bamberger D. Diagnosis, initial management, and prevention of meningitis. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82(12):1491-1498.
Lumbar puncture (LP). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T168500/Lumbar-puncture-LP . Updated September 11, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Meningitis and encephalitis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 2, 2017.
Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Weisfelt M, de Gans J, van der Ende A, van de Beek D. Community-acquired bacterial meningitis in alcoholic patients. PLoS One. 2010;5(2):e9102.
10/2/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for revaccination of persons at prolonged increased risk for meningococcal disease. MMWR. 2009;58(37):1042-1043.
4/22/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Lee CC, Middaugh NA, Howie SR, Ezzati M. Association of secondhand smoke exposure with pediatric invasive bacterial disease and bacterial carriage: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med. 2010;7(12).
1/2/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http http://www.dynamed... : Zalmanovici T, Fraser A, et al. Antibiotics for preventing meningococcal infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;10:CD004785.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 7/17/2018
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