Childhood Diseases Rare Symptoms Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a broad term, as meningitis can be viral, bacterial, or fungal. Meningitis is often referred to as spinal meningitis and, depending on the cause, can be mild, severe or even life threatening.

Viral Meningitis and Bacterial Meningitis

There are three general types of meningitis:

  • Bacterial meningitis is a very serious, life-threatening form of meningitis. Complications associated with bacterial meningitis include brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities. It can even lead to death if not treated early.
  • Fungal meningitis is caused by a fungal organism, such as Cryptococcus, Candida, or Histoplasma. Fungal meningitis is uncommon but may have serious complications.
  • Viral meningitis is the most common form of meningitis, and is relatively mild. Viral meningitis usually goes away on its own without medical intervention.

Meningitis - Bacterial Meningitis

Common Symptoms of Meningitis

The most common symptoms seen with meningitis are high fever, headache and stiff neck. Symptoms of meningitis may develop very quickly, in a matter of hours, or over the course of one or two days. Other meningitis symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Discomfort when looking into bright lights
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness.

When infants get this disease, symptoms of meningitis may include:

  • Feeding problems
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Irritable temperament
  • Vomiting.

Who’s At Risk?

Those who don’t receive the complete vaccine schedule for meningitis are most at risk. Children aged 5 and under are most affected by viral meningitis. Since the development of the meningococcal vaccine, children are no longer the most vulnerable to bacterial meningitis: The median age at which bacterial meningitis is currently diagnosed is 25.

People living in close quarters are also at increased risk for contracting meningitis. This kind of setting is ideal for the spread of infectious diseases. Thus, medical professionals recommend that the following groups be vaccinated:

  • Children attending boarding school
  • College students
  • Military personnel.

Anyone with a compromised immune system due to disease or immunosuppressant drugs is at risk for meningitis as well. Anyone who has had his spleen removed is also at risk, as this organ is important to healthy immune system functioning.

Listeria is a type of bacteria known to cause meningitis. Pregnant women and people working with domesticated animals, such as farmers, are at elevated risk of contracting Listeria.

Meningitis Treatment

In the case of viral meningitis, there is usually no formal treatment. Doctors recommend the following for this type of meningitis:

  • Increased fluids
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Plenty of rest.

In order to combat bacterial meningitis, doctors may prescribe antibiotics. This treatment option must be started early to be most effective.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Meningitis: Questions